PARK CITY, Utah - It's been days since I saw "Frank" at the Sundance Film Festival, and I'm still rolling it around on my tongue. Starring Michael Fassbender, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Domhnall Gleeson, the film is indeed very musical, but also explores where creativity comes from, mediocrity versus merit in the medium, the mythologized connection between mental illness and genius, and the clash between laughable pretension and utter likeability.
All while Fassbender wears a giant papier-mâchée head, as its titular character.
"Frank's" director Lenny Abrahamson struck me as an intense music lover, and some of "Frank" and his misanthropic band's influences tended toward what he called the academic. Frank makes nods to Beatles lover Daniel Johnston, and exploratory groups from Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa, and art collective The Residents.
The mask as a performance apparatus in the film acts as a mirror, to reflect on the audience's willingness to "go there" with its creator. Abrahamson wants those curious to be interested in what Frank is supposedly "hiding."
"It's sort of like 'The Wizard of Oz,'" he told me on the red carpet, the wish for the crowd to guess at what's behind the curtain. Hint: the big reveal isn't a mega-superstar singer for a famous Irish rock band.
"I gotta choose my words really carefully: Bono's wonderful, but he's not under the mask," Abrahamson conceded.
The music in the film can have it's drones and found sounds, it's rising and cresting melodies, jagged uneven rhythms next to a plodding keyboard line. At times, it sounded like Joy Division, then maybe a dash of The Fall or some Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Overall, I wish there were more completed songs presented, though the creation of the "idea of a song" seemed even more important to driving this film forward.
Well, I may get my wish anyway. Abrahamson said that "Frank" could yield a concert evening with the film's stars combining again, a la "Inside Llewyn Davis," so long as they can "make the schedule work." He also is planning to put together a soundtrack album release for "Frank," as apparently more material than could ever be crammed into the film still was conceived specifically for the project.
Watch the full interview above for more details on a potential release.