Review: Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story

Chris Sievey’s art teacher once wrote about him that “he has talent, but his fantasy is not always a success.”

Just about every celebrity going seems to have one of these stories (especially Lady Gaga). But whilst audiences did eventually love Chris, it wasn’t him they were applauding, rather a squeaky voiced character with a papier-mâché head.

Steve Sullivan serves as director, editor and producer for the documentary, charting his life from beginning to end over its 100-minute runtime.

He shows how Chris went from lead singer of The Freshies to the iconic Timperley resident-cum-rockstar-cum-kids TV presenter-cum-football club owner-cum-just everything about else you can imagine that was Frank Sidebottom.

Chris created Frank for a party, soon evolving into a gimmick before The Freshies’ shows, pretending to be their number one fan. Frank soon takes over as the star, surpassing The Freshies success quickly.

Sifting through Chris’ own extensive archives of diaries, homemade zines, photos, Super 8 videos and more, as well as interviews with family, fans and stars who knew him, Steve shows us both sides of the star – Chris and Frank.

There’s an internal battle, between the creator and his monster, Chris had always wanted success, but when he got it, it wasn’t really him. This is the theme that flows through the footage, under all the laughs he provides for others, he’s deeply troubled.

Despite this, it’s a seriously feel-good documentary for the most part, with contributors such as Ross Noble and John Cooper Clarke dropping wondrous anecdotes about Chris.

The Bard of Salford Mr. Cooper Clarke says in one of his interviews that “to become universal, you must first become ultra local”, and this summaries why Frank worked so well. A man running round the stage with a giant papier-mâché shouldn’t be as funny as it is, but the attention to detail in making such a niche character makes it all the better.

Theres a formal anarchy to the character, one contributor describes him as ‘professionally amateur’, a fitting description that would probably annoy any other performer.

I don’t want to write too much about the content it shows, as those that are fans will know most of it already, and the uninitiated will revel in learning every detail. Just when you think it can’t get any crazier, or more bizarre, he proves you thoroughly wrong.

An endearing portrait of the man behind the mask, unflinching in its portrayal of Chris and both sides of his life, it’s sure to please both lifelong fans and those who’ve never heard of him.

Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story is in cinemas from March 29

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