Zappa, Alex Winter’s documentary on Frank Zappa — one of the most important composers of the 20th century — is a film better seen and experienced than read about. So this will be relatively brief.
In a nutshell, Winter did a fantastic job. Over the course of two hours, he was able to hit the essential points of Zappa’s career highs and lows. He didn’t get bogged down on any one period of music or particular issue, most likely because Winter is not a die-hard Zappa fanatic, even as he respects the art at hand.
With full access to the legendary Zappa vaults, Winter is able to craft the story of a remarkable composer and satirist (among other things) without resorting to showing the same clips we have seen a thousand times before. The interviews with former band members (including Ruth Underwood, Mike Keneally, Scott Thunes, Mark Volman, and many others from nearly every period) are thoughtful and insightful. This is particularly true of Underwood, whose love and and respect for her former bandleader poured out like a geyser.
Anyone believing themselves an authority on all things Frank Zappa would do well to see this movie. Chances are, they will learn otherwise.
If this movie doesn’t encourage you to explore the world and music of Frank Zappa, nothing will.
Available for rent on Amazon
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