SXSW Film Review: ‘Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story’

Variety | 3/13/2018 | Owen Gleiberman
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In “Frank,” the minor oddball indie-rock fable from 2014, the title character was literally a head case: a pathological bizarro, played by Michael Fassbender, who spent the entire film wearing an oversize papier-mâché head that made him look like Astro Boy crossed with Boojie Boy from Devo crossed with the Big Boy mascot. It was possible to watch “Frank,” as I first did, without having any idea that Frank was the film’s fanciful riff on a true-life figure — Chris Sievey, a relatively unknown British musician who, in 1984, after more than a decade of trying and failing to make it in the record business, turned himself into a very different sort of pop star: the fake-head icon Frank Sidebottom, who became Sievey’s on-stage alter ego and, more than that, his mysterious second self.

“Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story” is a documentary, at once acerbic and affectionate, that tracks Sievey’s one-of-a-kind, semi-off-the-rails career. In “Frank,” the Fassbender character was severely mentally disturbed, and in the film’s capstone scene, when he took off his head, revealing himself to be a man who looked like he’d just had a lobotomy, and warbled out a song called “I Love You All,” the entire dawdling curio of a movie suddenly seemed worth sitting through just to behold Fassbender’s haunting off-key intensity.

Frank - Fiction - Being - Frank - Passion

But “Frank,” it turns out, was almost pure fiction. “Being Frank,” directed with probing archival passion by Steve Sullivan, reveals Chris Sievey to have been a troubled man, and a seriously devoted and obsessive art prankster, but he was anything but insane.

A good-looking chap who craved attention and was prone to alcohol and drug binges, he turned the human-puppet character of Frank Sidebottom into his pathway to a certain kind of winking notoriety. In that sense, he was like the British music-hall version of...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Variety
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