Frank Sidebottom was an oddity from every angle, an entertainer with a papier mâché head and a voice like a kazoo, an outsider artist who achieved mainstream success singing about Manchester village Timperley.
Constructed from a treasure trove of archive material rescued from a damp cellar, Steve Sullivan’s peppy and affectionate documentary tells the story of the man behind the massive mask: Chris Sievey, an uncompromising character who found himself accidentally consumed by his own creation. Along the way there are adoring recollections from the likes of Jon Ronson, John Cooper Clarke and Johnny Vegas.
Frank’s success peaked in the early ’90s with rapturously received turns at Reading Festival and his own properly chaotic TV show – for a moment, his creator had Britain at his feet but, as this film illustrates, self-destruction was there from the start. Sievey, who lived on cheese on toast and alcohol, was disinterested in anything resembling a traditional existence. His obsessive work ethic is described as somewhere close to Balzac’s and as ‘a mission of rank insanity’. He was compulsive to the last, whatever the cost – and there was great cost, to him and his family.
Sievey was hugely dysfunctional, but his mania produced utterly unique, anarchic work – one couldn’t have existed without the other. This is a meticulously crafted tribute about a frustrated, frustrating man who made a huge mess of things – much of it intentionally. One of a kind, to say the least.