Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words

July 4, 2016 at 6:29 pm | Posted in 2016 | Leave a comment
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◊ ½

Whatever else anyone may think of Frank Zappa, those who know anything about him would agree that he was an iconoclast. In fact, it is hard to think of anyone in pop culture who was more iconoclastic than he was. From his arrival on the music scene in the 1960s, Zappa was hellbent on exposing just how limited our idea of music is. He turned notions of rhythm and melody upside down, pushing the boundaries of what was thought of as music and the end results have influenced generations of musicians. All of that seems like good enough reason to create a documentary about him. However, this film is hardly about him at all. We learn nothing of his upbringing, what shaped him musically or about wife and the kids they raised. We also don’t hear current musicians talk about his influence. What we get are edited together sections of interviews he did over the years. And the man clearly hated interviews. The Zappa we see comes across as disdainful, bored and arrogant but it’s hard to know if that is who he was or just how he felt about the inane questions he was being asked. Though, I suspect that is who he was, given the homophobia, sexism and general disdain he showed for popular culture. The man was clearly brilliant but was also clearly aware of his brilliance and his certainty about his view of the world became a bit exhausting at times.  It might have helped if I had seen more than just a series of old interviews cut together in roughly chronological order. His wife Gail passed away in late 2015 and, since then, the estate has been in disarray as his 4 children have been fighting it out for control. I can’t help but wonder if this film was rushed out in an attempt to manage some of the large debts that were accruing. I think Frank Zappa is a difficult man for many people to understand and, sadly, I don’t think this film will help. I realize that he didn’t care about his legacy but I am sure his family does. There is another film about him due out in the next year or so. Maybe it can do what this one did not.

 

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