“Look Jon, you’re just going to have to go with this,” says one unhinged musician to the young lead in Irish director Lenny Abrahamson’s Frank. It’s also sage advice for anyone diving into this out-there comedy drama about a rock hopeful (About Time’s Domhnall Gleeson) drafted in to record an album with a lunatic experimental band whose lead singer wears a massive papier-mâché mask that he never takes off. Sported by the great Michael Fassbender, whose face spends most of the movie completely unseen, the huge wide-eyed fake head belongs to late British comedy act Frank Sidebottom, and journalist Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan’s script draws on the former’s own writings about performing alongside him. But this is a firmly fictional ride as straight-laced Jon gradually adapts to the group’s deranged dynamic, before persuading them to follow his own more conventional dreams, with disastrous consequences. Like Abrahamson’s previous work, such as his 2004 debut Adam & Paul, it welds hilarious comedy to darker explorations of creativity, fame and, above all, mental illness. It makes for jarring, uncomfortable viewing – whether you also find it moving, though, depends on how just far you’ve managed to go with it.
Featuring the final movie performance by late Sopranos star James Gandolfini, twist-filled crime drama The Drop centers on Brooklyn barman Tom Hardy, a warm-hearted loner whose establishment nevertheless serves as a dropping-off point for local gangsters’ ill-gotten gains. As circumstances place him in the middle of a botched robbery, he finds himself slipping far from his comfort zone. Adapted by Mystic River and Shutter Island author Dennis Lehane from his own short story (which he’s since expanded to a movie tie-in novel), it’s directed by Belgian filmmaker Michaël R. Roskam (Bullhead) and also stars Noomi Rapace and Matthias Schoenaerts (of Jacques Audiard’s Rust and Bone).
Treading similarly rotten turf, Spanish police procedural La isla mínima (or, Marshland as it’s known in English) is Alberto Rodríguez’s follow-up to his impressive Seville-set cop thriller Unit 7. Set in 1980 as Spain’s post-Franco democracy was still taking shape, it stars Javier Gutiérrez and Raúl Arévalo as two ideologically opposed Madrid cops sent down to a remote Andalusian town to investigate the disappearance of two teenage girls during the local fiestas. Running up against the town’s reactionary inhabitants, they find themselves on the trail of a long-active serial killer.
Arriving with its title freshly decimalized for the Spanish market (Un viaje de 10 metros), The Hundred-Foot Journey is a France-set English-language foodie comedy drama aimed squarely at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel crowd. Helen Mirren plays the owner of a swanky Michelin-starred restaurant in a small French town who’s appalled when an Indian family opens a curry house across the street.
The autobiographical The Dance of Reality is crazed Chilean genius Alejandro Jodorowsky’s first film in over 23 years and promises the same quotient of bizarre and extreme imagery familiar to anyone who’s dared take on his 1970s cult classics El Topo and The Holy Mountain.
Lastly, Llámale Jess Redux is an expanded version of Carles Prats’ 2000 film about late Spanish schlock director Jess Franco.