2014 was a strong year for Irish films released in the cinemas. Alongside a number of successful mainstream releases were some excellent independent features and documentaries. Our Top 5 of the year looks a little something like this:
Lenny Abrahamson’s Frank led the way for Irish film with five nominations for this year’s British Independent Film Awards. Created in 1998 by Raindance founder Elliot Grove, The British Independent Film Awards set out to celebrate merit and achievement in independently funded filmmaking.
Frank was nominated in the following categories
· Best Director – Lenny Abrahamson
· Best Screenplay – Jon Ronson & Peter Straughan
· Best Supporting Actor – Michael Fassbender
· Best Supporting Actress – Maggie Gyllenhaal
· Technical Achievement – Music (Stephen Rennicks)
Speaking today, Abrahamson commented that “I’m delighted for everyone involved in Frank that it’s getting such an endorsement from the BIFA and honored to be nominated for Best Director.”
John Michael McDonagh’s Calvary received 4 nominations for Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Actor. Other Irish nominations were Andrew Scott for Best Supporting Actor (Calvary) and Robbie Ryan for Best Technical Achievement (Frank).
The winners will be announced at the much anticipated 17th awards ceremony to be held on Sunday 7th December in central London.
Frank is currently available on DVD and On-Demand.
In this Film Ireland podcast, Ruairí Moore and Donnchadh Tiernan get together in a sulpher-ridden basement to chat about all things film. Pending their survival, we hope to bring you their regular thinkings and talkings in true film-loving fashion.
In this episode, Ruairí and Donnchadh give us their latest film news, salute H.R. Giger, who died last week, catch up on films they should’ve seen but haven’t, but have now (Punch-Drunk Love & Once Upon a Time in the West) and check out some current films playing in a cinema near you – Frank, Blue Ruin and Transcendence.
Lenny Abrahamson’s latest film Frank is released in cinemas today. Gemma Creagh caught up with the director at the recent European premiere of the film at the Light House cinema in Dublin to find out more about the film for On The Reel in association with Film Ireland.
Gemma also had a chat to the man behind the papier-mâché head, Michael Fassbender, and spoke to Domhnall Gleeson about his role as Jon, a wannabe musician, who joins Frank’s band and embarks on a journey of delirious creativity and pursuit of fame.
DIR: Lenny Abrahamson • WRI: Peter Straughan • PRO: Ed Guiney, Stevie Lee, Andrew Lowe • DOP: James Mather • MUS: Stephen Rennicks • DES: Richard Bullock • CAST: Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal
Many films aiming to make a statement about art in conflict with commerciality must often contend with a similar push/pull arrangement in the execution of that statement itself. After all, original or groundbreaking as it might be, if an indie flick lands at Sundance with no-one there to live-tweet it, does it make a sound? Aiming to prop itself between these two stools of art and commerce by no more than one over-large paper mache head and a bucketful of ambition is director Lenny Abrahamson’s latest outing, Frank.
Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) is a serial-tweeting office drone plagued by dreams of international stardom but rather lacking in the creative drive to see them realized. Enter the Soronprfbs, an eclectic musical outfit whose disdain for vowels is matched only by the eccentricity of frontman Frank (Fassbender), who lives his life enclosed in a huge, cartoonish prop head. Brought into the fold when the band find suddenly find themselves short a keyboardist, Jon sees his chance for stardom and resolves to take it – along the way contending with the bile of acerbic bandmate Clara (Gyllenhal), his own tragic lack of inspiration and fundamental doubts as to whether he’s crossed paths with a musical messiah or a plain old madman.
Frank quickly found an eager audience during its debut at Sundance, and it’s no real surprise why. Charming, funny and bright – starkly so in contrast to Abrahamson’s earlier work – the film delivers consistent belly-laughs while still managing to hit quieter, sombre notes about a genuinely troubled masked man to whom the microphone may as well be an umbilical cord. By turns hilarious and tragic are Jon’s fumbling attempts at inspiration relayed through banal sing-along internal monologues and a Twitter feed constantly appearing on screen but increasingly at odds with the reality of his situation.
Unsurprisingly, Fassbender exhibits impressive range beneath the mask, and the near-violent chemistry between Gylenhaal and Gleeson is crackling. It is likely the latter who delivers the anchoring performance of the film, slipping from wide-eyed to cut-throat as Jon slowly begins to realize that while the sparsely-populated pub gigs and mish-mash of recording techniques are a means to and end for him, for the rest of the band they act as a strange sort of therapy.
However, while certainly interesting as an examination of the notion of celebrity, it is difficult to escape the feeling that Frank is, strangely, Abrahamson’s most conventional effort to date. While ostensibly hiding the film’s most marketable feature behind a paper mache mask, it is likely that this very choice to take one of the world’s most sought-after faces and hide it in plain sight has drawn quite so much of the buzz that would class Frank as unique.
“You’re just going to have to go with this,” Jon is told by the band’s manager rather early on, but in truth there is little enough to go with that truly strays from the beaten path. A typical three act structure put together with bright, agreeable colour tones and a titular character who can’t help but be endearing, the overriding sense is of an unconventional idea packaged in its most marketable form, where “quirky” is a buzzword thrown out for poster by-lines as opposed to any real indication of divergence.
With subject matter wrestling with the idea of art vs commerciality, it ultimately leans towards the latter – but this is nothing to mourn. Frank is sharply-scripted, beautifully-shot and suitably suspicious of the entire vague notion of celebrity. However, while likely bound for success and justifiably so, one is simply left with the entirely unreasonable but nonetheless niggling feeling that this very message might be lost in the scramble to fit statues with tiny paper mache heads come awards season.
Lenny Abrahamson’s offbeat comedy Frank is set for the cinemas on the 9th of May. The film follows about a young wannabe musician, Jon (Domhnall Gleeson), who finds himself out of his depth when he joins an avant-garde pop band led by the mysterious and enigmatic Frank (Michael Fassbender), a musical genius who hides himself inside a large fake head, and his terrifying bandmate Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal).
Following on from its world premiere, US Distribution deal and huge critical acclaim last month at the Sundance Film Festival, Frank is now Austin bound to play at the SXSW festival in March. Frank will screen as part of the Festival Favorites strand, which showcases acclaimed standouts and previous premieres. The South by SouthWest Festival (SXSW) presents the best in new independent music and film every year in Austin, Texas. It is now considered the destination for the game-changing buzz every filmmaker dreams of.
Frank is a comedy about a young wannabe musician, Jon (Domhnall Gleeson), who discovers he’s bitten off more than he can chew when he joins a band of eccentric pop musicians led by the mysterious and enigmatic Frank (Michael Fassbender) and his terrifying sidekick Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal).
The film is directed by Ireland’s critically acclaimed Lenny Abrahamson (Adam & Paul, Garage,What Richard Did). Frank is written by Jon Ronson (The Men Who Stare At Goats) and Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Men Who Stare At Goats). Frank is based on the memoir by Jon Ronson and is a fictional story loosely inspired by Frank Sidebottom, the persona of cult musician and comedy legend Chris Sievey, as well as outsider musicians like Daniel Johnston and Captain Beefheart. The director of photography is James Mather (Adam & Paul), production designer Richard Bullock (StreetDance 3D, Spike Island). Music is by regular Abrahamson collaborator, Stephen Rennicks.
Frank was produced by Ed Guiney, David Barron and Stevie Lee, and executive producers are Tessa Ross, Katherine Butler, Andrew Lowe and Nigel Williams. FRANK is an Element Pictures/Runaway Fridge production for Film4, BFI, Protagonist Pictures and the Irish Film Board. Frank was filmed in Ireland and the USA and utilised the tax incentive Section 481 in addition to Irish Film Board investment.