“I love you all” – Michael Fassbender sings the Gospel wearing a papier-mâché head

Josh Larsen

The strange new movie Frank, starring Michael Fassbender as an enigmatic bandleader who wears a giant papier-mâché head, ends with a remarkable scene of musical reconciliation. The moment – a performance of a song called “I Love You All” - mostly resonates within the narrative of the film itself, but there are also Gospel echoes all over it.

Frank charts the slight rise and significant fall of an experimental rock band with the highly unmarketable name of Soronprfbs (actors Maggie Gyllenhaal and Domhnall Gleeson are among the other band members, all of whom do their own playing and singing). Fassbender’s Frank is considered to be some sort of musical savant, leading their wah-wah meanderings and mumbling improvisatory lyrics from behind his mask. Yet after the band gets an invitation to South By Southwest and Frank becomes increasingly unsteady, questions arise as to whether he’s truly a musical genius or is actually a mentally unstable introvert. Or, possibly, both.

(If you’re afraid of spoilers, skip the next paragraph and enjoy the video below of Soronprfbs performing “I You Love All” on a recent episode of The Colbert Report.)

After the band falls apart, Gyllenhaal and some of the others take a gig at a Texas dive bar named El Madrid, where they perform gloomy covers of campfire standards, largely ignored by the down-on-their-luck “crowd.” Frank finds them (notably no longer wearing his mask) and they tentatively develop a groove that blossoms into “I Love You All.”

In some ways, “I Love You All” is a riff on Luke 4:18, where Jesus emphasizes He has come especially for the downtrodden, the oppressed. Seeking those folks out in first-century Palestine took Him to some pretty skeevy corners, ones similar to a bar like El Madrid, about which Frank sings:

El Madrid it's nice to see you
It's really nice to be here
I love you all
Stale beer, fat cow poked
Sequined mountain ladies
I love you all
Put your arms around me
Fiddly digits itchy britches
I love you all
The washrooms smell, they could be cleaner
Stench of cigarettes and stale urea
I love you all
The prodigal son returns
Where the dogs play pool
I love you all

There’s a persistence to “I Love You All” – a declaration of love even amidst the recognition of wreckage - that strikes me as Gospel truth. (Frank director Lenny Abrahamson wrote the lyrics with Stephen Rennicks, who composed the music.) I think of Mark 2:17, where Jesus declares that he has come for the sick, not the righteous. Or 2 Peter 3:9, which extols God’s patience in desiring that “everyone” comes to repentance. Or even John 3:16, which declares nothing less than a love for the whole world and everyone in it – whether we’re bemoaning our brokenness in a church pew or on a bar stool.

Topics: Music, Movies, TV, Culture At Large, Arts & Leisure, Entertainment