Friday, November 27, 2020


Alex Winter (Bill of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure fame) helms the new documentary on musician Frank Zappa. The aptly titled Zappa is most notable for Winter's level of access to Zappa's extensive vaults of video and musical recordings (he apparently recorded everything) along with interviews from those who knew him best. A mix of celebration of a genius and portrait of a self-indulgent individual catered to by a small but fiercely supporting base, Zappa explores the musician's driving force to translate and recreate the music heard in his mind into reality.

What Winter delivers is an unapologetic portrait of a man who would likely have been interesting to meet but impossible to live with. While Zappa loved his wife and children, the documentary shows a man who didn't necessarily believe in the idea of friendship while being largely obsessed in using people to manifest his own dreams into existence. The documentary also touches on Zappa's experimental style, his celebrity within the music business, his aversion to making hit records, working as an ambassador for Czechoslovakia, and his growing role against censorship of music.

Still as divisive today as he was during his lifetime, Frank Zappa passed away in 1993, your enjoyment of Zappa will likely boil down to your view of the man and his music. For fans, this is an immersive look into the man's career including into how Zappa viewed music and his place on Earth. Meanwhile, detractors aren't going to look hard to find examples of adolescent antics which many use to discount his contribution to musical history. What Winter captures so well is the divisiveness of Frank Zappa while pointing out the obsession which drove him in bold, and often bizarre, ways. Whether you believe that legacy to be genius or self-indulgent bullshit, Winter's framing of the man's life-long quest is something to behold.

No comments: