Thursday, August 21, 2014

Michael Fassbender's big head in 'Frank,' a counterpoint in TMZ era

August 21, 2014

(not from the movie)

Modern movie stardom is dependent on many things, but perhaps none more so than well-known, good-looking faces appearing in new films.

So what would make a high-profile actor decide to spend most of a movie wearing a cartoon face that renders him unrecognizable? And apart from a sense of masochistic mischief, what would prompt someone to make a movie with just that

(nope, this isn't from the movie either)

It's a question that will be running through your head with Magnolia Films' release Friday of a new indie dramedy "Frank," directed by the Irish filmmaker Lenny Abrahamson and starring Michael Fassbender.

"Head" is a key word, since Fassbender — of course famous as Magneto in the "X-Men" series and in rigorous dramas such as "12 Years a Slave" — spends most of the film in a giant one, a fully concealing apparatus that looks like a cross between a Lego mini figure and one of those inflatable replicas of Edvard Munch's "The Scream."

(ok, now I'm just being silly)

If you see the movie, you may find yourself furtively checking your phone halfway through wondering if you misread Fassbender's billing — or, perhaps, calming a zealous spouse who wants to rush back to the ticket window asking for a refund. But it's indeed Fassbender under there, speaking in an American accent, as a character inspired by Frank Sidebottom, a real-life musician who, in the tradition of the Residents and Daft Punk, was almost never seen performing without the disguise.

"Frank" actually takes this character one step further, since the Daft Punk duo presumably takes its masks off in private. Fassbender's Frank keeps it on all the time--even, as another of his bandmates matter of factly notes, when showering and brushing his teeth.

Oh, and technically he's not Frank Sidebottom but a character named Frank who's inspired by him. In fact, Frank Sidebottom wasn't even Frank Sidebottom — he was a character played on-stage by the musician Chris Sievey in late-1980s England.(Sievey died in 2010.) The journalist Jon Ronson, at the time an aspiring rock keyboardist, was recruited rather spontaneously into Sievey's band, and he co-wrote this script in part based on that experience.

There are, then, layers of irony. Figuratively. But also literally.


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