Film Review – Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story (2019)

Originality is hard to come by these days, many would never think it could come from a man who wore a Papier Mâché head.Being Frank Frank: The Sievey Story is the story of that man Chris Sievey and his Papier Mâché alter ego Frank Sidebottom.

Even nine years after his death Frank Sidebottom and Chris Sievey are still unknown quantities. This film unearths the man under mâché, celebrating his unbridled talent. Also trying to understand the motivations behind the limitless creativity he possessed.

Being over 35 and kid during the 1980’s I was fortunate to have seen Frank. He was on everything on television he could get onto. No.73, ITV Saturday morning magazine show that was hosted by Sandi Toskvig with filmmaker Andrea Arnold (American Honey). However everyone’s experience of Frank was different.

If you lived in Manchester or familiar with the city’s music or comedy network during the 80’s or 90’s, Frank stalked the scene. He was a regular fixture for over 25 years, a giant in ingenuity, a force to be reckon with. Who really knew Chris Sievey, the fractured genius underneath the mask?
Being Frank The Chris Sievey Story (2019)
Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story uses extensive archive of Chris’ personal collection of notebooks, art, music, and films. Alongside the insights from his family, friends (John Cooper Clarke, Mark Radcliffe, Jon Ronson, brother Martin and ex-wife, Paula).The film uncovers an intimate portrait of a sensitive, tortured artist who was forever on the outside looking in.

According to director Steve Sullivan Being Frank might have not happened. In a recent Picturehouse podcast interview , he said he got in touch with Martin Sievey (Chris Brother) who was about to throw out all his possessions into a skip. Now 9 years later after Chris death (to cancer), blood, sweat, tears and a Kickstarter campaign we now have this fabulous film. Plus those treasures the director saved are preserved in Manchester’s St.Peter’s Library for other generations to enjoy and celebrate the city’s rich tapestry.

Chris Sievey had a Peter Pan child like persona with very little interest in the formalities of adult life. From growing up and into his adult life with his own kids.He hated sending his kids to school, letting someone else ‘educate them’. He would rather had stayed at home and watch Thunderbird cartoon and playing.

Chris dream was to do better than his musical heroes The Beatles. From the early moments of the film we learn about his musical aspirations with his brother Martin. Encouraged by his parents, the brothers created demo after demo, even when rejection followed. Chris was a raw talent that always shinned creating not just the demo artwork but also the rejection letters music companies sent. All they had to do was sign them and post it back.

He dud finally get some minor success with his punk influenced pop band, the Freshies. They never shared the same level of success as their fellow Mancunian alumni of the era. Their tunes were catchy, maybe a little gimmicky they did give Chris the breakthrough he desired.
Being Frank The Chris Sievey Story
They had one outrageously titled song ” I’m in love with the girl in the Manchester Virgin Megastore check out desk“.It opened big doors for the band. The BBC came calling with a chance to appear on the nation’s biggest music show…Top Of The Pops!. This was the 1980’s and industrial action stopped the band appearing on the show as episode got cancelled.Chris pushed on and out of that obscurity, Frank Sidebottom was born.

Frank was created as the band’s superfan who grew into the cult personality we grew to love. As the Freshies slow fell apart, Frank grew in stature with his own absurd sell out gigs. Then came the television, public appearance including one at Wembley Stadium. More and more Frank appeared, Chris Sievey the man was becoming a figment of your imagination.

Underneath the Papier Mâché head, Chris battled with his own demons as pressure being Frank took its toll. Cigarettes, Booze and drugs became his devices, with womanising and poor understanding of money nearly sealed his downfall. Sadly when he took control and things started to pick up, Chris Sievey succumb to cancer and died in 2010.

They say you don’t fully appreciate someone until they pass on. Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story is an endearing fascinating film, celebrating a raw talent that deserved more plaudits. Blessed with a treasure trove of archive footage, riotous humour and music with friends sharing their thoughts on Chris.

How many cult stars can say they have a statue in their hometown dedicated to their alter ego? Or have Michael Fassbender playing in a film inspired by Frank Sidebottom? Chris Sievey can.

★★★★


Documentary, Music | UK, 2019 | 15 | 29th April 2019 | DVD, Blu-Ray | Altitude Films| Dir.Steve Sullivan |Martin Sievey, Mark Radcliffe, John Cooper Clarke, Chris Sievey,

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