Another documentary of a complicated controversial musician can feel prolonged but often involving, even in an ennobling way.
Zappa comes from Alex Winter of Bill and Ted Face The Music whose non-fiction work is honed in given access of Frank’s family (including wife Gail) to a trove of archival material. It may prove to be valuable to an extent even to those casually familiar with the artist who relocated to rural Southern California. Before gaining more exposure in the Big Apple and with Czechs as Communism came to an end.
It’s not just archival footage of an anti-drug guy who definitely didn’t fit into one genre being quite the adventurous and demanding type who was the driving force of ‘radical rock’ in the Sixties. Stimulated by black rhythm & blues in his younger days, he was influenced by maestros like Stravinsky and Varese as he clearly would follow his own rhythms.
There’s a febrile, psychedelic atmosphere at play here which Winter uses to demonstrate a unique mind at work that would enrapture many of his admirers (like The Beatles) but riled up others like Tipper Gore. As a music history covering a life taken in early middle-age by prostate cancer Zappa consistently has much going for it. Evan without interviews with his kids Ahmed (a producer), Moon Unit and Dweezil and snippets of performances.
“With unfettered access to the Frank Zappa family trust and all archival footage, ‘ZAPPA’ explores the private life behind the mammoth musical career that never shied away from the political turbulence of its time”.
Some biopics get so caught up in hero worship they forget about the person they are recognizing. This is not the case with ZAPPA, directed by Alex Winter. There’s no glossing over the truth, or a happy ending to be found. Frank Zappa’s life was complicated — just like his music. Anyone not familiar with Frank’s notoriety was probably living under a rock somewhere. Possessing a 200 IQ, he never took a formal lesson, instead, teaching himself how to read and write songs on the guitar. Frank did this while a young teenager, devouring the content of every music book in the local library. As Frank’s legendary composing skills improved, his music became so increasingly complicated that only the most talented musicians could even attempt to play his music.
In my humble opinion, this new documentary only scratches the surface of ‘all things Zappa’. At two hours and nine minutes, I was just getting started. Here’s hoping further chapters are added to the Zappa legend.
As any frustrated genius, Frank believed in ‘art for arts sake’ refusing to be controlled by record company executives. Money was never a motivating factor. Frank Zappa always did things his own way — leaving us with an incredible musical legacy that will last for centuries.