A San Francisco-based independent film documents an ex-addict’s journey to his own soul’s code
GUEST COLUMN: DANNY KENNY — Some people are born Frank and some people learn to be Frank, but in the new film “May I be Frank?” no one can ever really be Frank except, well, Frank. Earnest, characterized as someone with a firm, humorless, and sincere belief in the validity of his own opinion is, thankfully, nowhere to be found in this flick. If you are, however, thinking flashy Italian American who does things his own way, you’re on the right track. But this is ultimately a story about a man in search of his voice and a different kind of love, perhaps the most elusive . . . self love.
No “Bull” here, but raging yes. And touching and funny as hell? Hell yeah! This is a small, true-story movie that started out when a man with a big heart met a man with an open heart and, in the spirit of gratitude, began a life altering journey in the aptly named Cafe Gratitude in San Francisco. Over the next 42 days “Three (young and enlightened) Amigos” help Frank find and sometimes lose (particularly in the colonic scenes) his inner man and search for the man he always has been deep within. But this inner self, despite his relentless searching through drugs, alcohol, sex, food, and what-have-you, has never been able to truly emerge and thrive . . . until now.
Frank is a 54 yr old, 290 lb Sicilian ex-addict with hep C and an unquenchable appetite for women, who is always looking for a quick fix. But now all Frank wants is to fall in love one more time before he dies. His intrepid new friends figure out straight away that this is an inside job. In an effort to shift (sometimes literally) how he feels internally and what he perceives externally, the first thing they want to change is what Frank puts inside himself. What ensues is a trip within itself and, like a lot of San Francisco-esque “trips,” this movie will have you laughing, crying, grimacing, and gripping your seat until you ultimately emerge hope-filled and enlightened on the other side.
There’s an old Irish saying, “Experience is what you get when you’re looking for something else” — and if that’s true, then (to use a “Liptonism” outside the “Actor’s Studio”), this film is “an homage to the very essence of that, without ever trying to be.” The great thing about this particular 90-minute journey is no one seems to have any real idea where Frank, or even the viewer (and sometimes, voyeur), is going to end up. Therein lies the true genius and insanity of the film.
Sometimes there actually is a method to people’s madness and then other times there’s just madness without the method. On the side of method, take, for example, the great Italian method actors like de Niro, Pacino, and their ilk who suffer and strive for that specific feeling of “being in the moment.” And now think of Ferrante, who was just born in it and stays in it while he constantly suffers from it and desperately tries to find his way out of it —madness.
A New Voice in the Independent Circuit
“Who?” I hear you foreign film buffs and Strasburg affcionados cry. “Is this some little known treasure of the independent circuit that has evaded me?” Well yes and no is the answer to that, which again should put you in the right frame of mind to welcome “Frank” into your heart. And you surely will if you watch and listen as he struggles to find himself and the words to express his inner pain, often excruciatingly so, but always with an honesty, truth and sometimes incredible humor that De Niro couldn’t fake on his best day.
Inspiration without the Education or Confrontation
In the spirit of Frankie, I won’t go Hollywood on you, few movies genuinely change anybody’s life. However, experiencing Frank’s story may just make you think twice about what you put into your life — and into yourself. So, if you’re struggling with your own “Angels and Demons,” or even if you just want to feel good about yourself and the individual spirit of humanity, forget Richie Cunningham and Hank’s version of “Brown.” What you have to do is get yourself to a small (for now) cinema near you. Then, you, too can become one of those people at parties who say things like “I saw Ferrante’s first feature in The Mission District long before Coppola and Scorsese hosted that famous week-long run at The Italian American Club in North Beach.”
But, hopefully, what you’ll actually do is see the movie, be deeply moved by the spirit of the film, and simply tell your friends about it. And that would be nice.
Danny Kenny is a San Francisco-based writer and a Pagan witch.
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