This is the story of Sievey, the man in the costume whose life started long before the maverick intentions of Sidebottom took it over
There is something about Steve Sullivan’s documentary on Chris Sievey, the man behind cult legend Frank Sidebottom and his papier mache head, that truly cuts perfectly. A man who many know of, but only a select few know deeply, Sidebottom is a true enigma of popularity, and resembles and influenced a huge section of unique British humour and entertainment. After all, he is essentially a mildly intimidating man dressed in a head made of dried glue and newspaper.
But Being Frank isn’t necessarily the story of Sidebottom. This is the story of Sievey, the man in the costume whose life started long before the maverick intentions of Sidebottom took it over.
The balance between the pair, the enigma that he became, and the reasons behind Sidebottom’s very creation, are not only explained but explored in great depths with those who knew the men best. If there’s one idea explained so vividly by the film is that these were different people with separate personalities. When Sievey had the mask on, he was different, he was someone else, and the separation between the two is key to obtaining even the slightest insight into what Sidebottom truly meant to Sievey.
A largely unique man in his own right, Sievey’s personality is brilliantly explored and opened, as Sullivan looks to dwell on the repeated defeats and failings that stopped Sievey from succeeding with his early band The Freshies, and in his never ending list of solo projects. This is a man who was destined for the top, and absolutely knew that, but never found the right path to get there.
Being Frank is a starkly honest reflection of both men, and its seriousness and love for the performance let’s both Sievey and Sidebottom show who they truly were. Allowing for moments of reflection and sadness, strong elements of Sievey’s persona, not only becomes fitting but vital. Frank Sidebottom was not a character created out of pure happiness.
The love is vital, and Sullivan’s kickstarter backed project wouldn’t be the success it is without the love it’s received in multiple forms. But overriding everything is Being Frank’s pure honesty and diligence in extracting all it can from any source available. A wonderful documentary about a fascinating man whose fabricated split personality became one of the best British cult characters, and one of the most enigmatic creations in television history.
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