Sometimes art is broadly appealing, and sometimes it’s weird. Sometimes it’s a pretty painting on a chapel ceiling or an arrangement which harmonizes with itself backwards; sometimes it’s a piece of string nailed to a wall or a fragile-voiced guy barking like a dog and singing about his sister Lisa. With the modern shift from “showcasing widely-agreed-upon technical skilll” to “making the audience feel something”, the mythology of the people who create art can become bigger than the thing they create: if Jandek had been on Twitter and Wesley Willis had been a wealthy McDonalds exec with a funny hobby, would something have been lost in the music? Does it matter that they meant it?
“Frank” is the story of an aspiring musician who finds himself thrust into the outsider scene, led by an enigmatic songwriter with a giant fake head. Its trailers make it look like a quirkified Almost Famous, but that A) sets the audience up for disappointment and B) sells the film way too short. Beneath the “indie” exterior is an interesting look at the interplay between creativity and mental illness, the mythos surrounding the people who make art, and what happens when that mythos is packaged and sold. Fassbender’s performance gives Frank serious depth, and while there are plenty of solid laughs, you can’t shake the melancholy. It’s much more The Devil And Daniel Johnston than This Is Spinal Tap. While it might not be for everyone, it’s definitely worth a watch.