Peter Straughan

Film Review: The Snowman

by Carrie Kahn on October 20, 2017

This Snowman will leave you cold       

Detective Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) searches for a killer, and we search for a good movie. Which of us will be successful?

Whenever a movie is based on a book, there are always those who will passionately argue that “the book was better.” Sometimes they’re right and sometimes they’re wrong, but, in the case of The Snowman, which opens today, I firmly believe the-book-is-better-crowd is correct, and I haven’t even read the book upon which the film is based. But, I have seen the movie, and, after watching it, I cannot possibly fathom that anything could be worse than this nonsensical, hastily thrown together, boring mess.
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 Frank

by Carrie Kahn

Frank 2

Michael Fassbender portrays the mysterious rocker Frank.

Loosely inspired by alt rocker Chris Sievey’s stage creation Frank Sidebottom, Irish director Lenny Abrahamson’s new film is co-written by Peter Straughan and Jon Ronson, whose memoir details his experiences with Sidebottom. But no knowledge of the film’s backstory is necessary to be utterly delighted by this quirky and very funny film, which chronicles Jon’s (Domhnall Gleeson) induction into, and relationship with, an avant-garde band led by the mysterious Frank (Michael Fassbender). The catch is that Frank wears a large papier-mâché mask not only when on stage, but during all parts of his life (even while showering). What is amazing is that although the mask has just one expression – a crudely drawn, unsmiling, wide-eyed stare, its features seem to change simply by virtue of Fassbender’s tone of voice and body language; his performance is truly remarkable. Why Frank chooses to cover himself this way is one of the film’s central questions; themes of identity, artistic integrity, and creativity are explored with nuanced humor and depth. Does creativity have to stem from inner darkness, the film asks, or can normalcy and happiness drive the creative process just as forcefully? If artistic creations become widely popular, is their worth somehow lessened? With hauntingly beautiful cinematography (many scenes were filmed around Austin) and a weird and wonderful soundtrack, Frank delves into these issues with style, charm, and black humor. Plusses: Unique, intelligent story; brilliant performances by Fassbender and relative newcomer Gleeson. Minuses: Maggie Gyllenhall is slightly grating as fellow band-mate Clara; her range here seems to hover only between fiercely angry and completely insane. Final Analysis: A smart, compelling picture about the inner lives of artists that, frankly (yes, pun intended) may well be one of the best films of the year.

Frank opens today at the Landmark Embarcadero theater in San Francisco and the Landmark Shattuck theater in Berkeley.

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