This documentary about the enduring Irish band is a strangely muted and uninvolving affair.
Conor Masterson’s film following The Frames in the eighteen-month lead up to their 20th anniversary gig is very much for fans of the veteran Dublin act. It’s high time Glen Hansard’s raggle-taggle brigand got their own documentary but the director’s approach is one of hushed reverence that will leave newcomers woefully uninformed and perhaps wondering what the actual fuss is about.
As a photographer, Masterson has been framing The Frames for 15 years and while it was never his intention to make a definitive history, the poetic, non-linear approach - all impressionistic, monochrome shots of the band huddled in coastal vistas at dusk, trees in winter, and, at one point, a lingering close-up of a white horse - can be pretty but dull.
For the band’s detractors, the fragmentary and “meaningful” style will pretty much sum up the very things they dislike about The Frames. Few questions are posed and no context is set. There is no input from the band’s impressive array of former members, no dissenting voices, and no real examination of Hansard’s burgeoning solo career.
The casual viewer will be left hankering for some of the of pure reportage of Daragh McCarthy’s film about Dublin’s mid-nineties music scene, The Stars are Underground from whence, of course, The Frames got one of their song titles. It’s a shame because The Frames have a fascinating story to tell. They are a bunch of music “lifers” whose vocational dedication has always been refreshing in a rock culture of careerist wannabes. As a live act, they also remain an incendiary force and Masterson’s film is at its best when the band are filmed in concert, letting fly with particularly cathartic versions of Monument and Revelate.
Essentially, this is a series of well-shot vignettes which capture the fleeting, inchoate nature of song writing, of life on the road, and of being in band. It’s a noble and lofty approach to film making but the solipsistic narrative will leave non-Frames disciples unimpressed and fans unsatisfied that the full story hasn't been told.
Check out a trailer for the film here.