The man behind the mask: Michael Fassbender as Frank

by Mark Burger

There are those who will find Frank utterly confounding and inscrutable while others will find it a warped triumph. In this case, both assessments could be considered valid. It’s outrageous (sometimes wildly so), selfindulgent (ditto) and, in the end, unexpectedly haunting.

The film is certainly an original, and cult status is assured.

The talented Domhnall Gleeson (son of the equally talented Brendan), plays Jon, an aspiring musician who joins a touring band that’s not so much avant-garde as avant-weird. The band’s name (“Soronprfbs”?) is unpronounceable, and its music is unfathomable. The previous keyboardist tried to drown himself, so Jon is recruited to fill the position for a gig that goes immediately, disastrously wrong. (One gets the feeling that every gig ends the same way.)

The lead singer is named Frank, played by Michael Fassbender under a large, expressionless mask that he never takes off. When Jon muses that he’s going “through the looking glass,” he’s not kidding. The band travels to a remote lakeside cabin to cut a new album, a loony (and ludicrous) process that takes longer than expected, is more expensive than anticipated and involves at least one illicit assignation and one suicide (followed by a Viking funeral).

When the band lands a gig at the SXSW Festival in Texas, Jon is delighted. Not so are the other members, especially the abrasive Clara (an amusing and sexy Maggie Gyllenhaal), who views it as a futile attempt to placate a mainstream audience. Frank is initially enthusiastic, but signs soon appear that this grasp at stardom is doomed “” and perhaps always was.

Frank’s mask seems at first a gimmick “” it is, to a great extent “” and certainly yields its share of funny moments, but Fassbender expertly uses his voice and physical mannerisms to create a fully-rounded character. It’s a brave, strange and ultimately wonderful performance. To some extent, so to is Frank. . One thing’s for sure: There’s not another movie out there even remotely like it. !

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