Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story is the official documentary about maverick Manchester comedian Frank Sidebottom, and the life and art of his hidden creator Chris Sievey. Frank Sidebottom, remembered fondly as the man with the papier-mâché head, was the court jester of the Manchester music and comedy scene for over 25 years, but only a privileged few knew the man inside. Being Frank tells a twisted tale of split personalities – a suburban superhero with a fanatical desire to preserve the myth he created, and eventually having to battle against being consumed by his alter ego.
As a child of the 80s, the vision of Frank Sidebottom invading my telly-box was a something that instilled a fascinating mixture of fear and curiosity. To me, he was a larger-than-life man-child with a cartoonish, papier-mâché head, obsessed with football and referencing things beyond my comprehension. The older I got, the more I understood and the more I felt invested in his particular brand of weird, energetic humour. But sadly, the older I got, the less I saw him on telly.
When Lenny Abrahamson’s black comedy, Frank was released in 2014 I mistakenly went in thinking it was a biopic of sorts, when in fact, the character played by Michael Fassbender shared more in common with American artist/ musician, Daniel Johnston. While that film hints at the real Sievey’s artistic obsessions, it misses out on the humour and heart that is readily on display in this new documentary.
Far from maudlin or fiercely reverent, Being Frank is a candid account of a man who seemed plagued by an all-consuming desire to create and gain recognition for those creations. His artistic endeavours spanned a multitude of medias from music to video, illustrations and comedy, and this documentary goes to wonderful lengths to ensure that his friends, band members, co-conspirators, family and fans develop a three-dimensional image of Sievey’s character.
As biographical documentaries go, you’d be hard-pressed to find a funnier or more touching film. There’s a great deal of admiration, love and affection radiating from Being Frank, and while the man may no longer be here to confound future generations of kids and adults, this wonderful memorial will hopefully entertain and inspire in his stead.
Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story has a limit theatrical run from Friday 29th March
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