Author Topic: ZAPPA - documentary about an artistic (if weird) genius  (Read 169 times)

Offline perc2100

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ZAPPA - documentary about an artistic (if weird) genius
« on: January 14, 2021, 03:43:17 PM »
I'm a sucker for documentaries about artists, particularly musicians.  Learning about the creative process & execution will always be fascinating to me as a percussionist who has an understanding of the struggles and technical execution necessary for truly great artists capable of expression themselves.  I wouldn't necessarily call myself a Frank Zappa fan, but his unique voice and exceptional talent, coupled with high intelligence and courage to do and say whatever he wanted, is one that I've long admired, even when I didn't necessarily "get" what he was trying to say.  I suspect director Alex Winter is in the same boat, as he's curated a wonderful portrait of one of the greatest artists of the 20th century in a way that seems to truly revere the artist without fawning over him in a fan-boy way.  Winter doesn't seem interested in over-explaining Zappa's muse or creative process, for the most part; nor does Winter dig deep for controversy or family & band dramas.  ZAPPA is more an exploration of the artist, told primarily via archival interview footage: often coming straight from Frank Zappa's own mouth!

Winter interviews Zappa's widow, Gail, as well as a handful of band members from various eras to paint the picture of what it was like being around Frank: how intensely demanding he was to work with in he striving for his bandmates to execute his ideas as perfectly as he could. I appreciate that Winter is honest with his portrayal of Frank, with talk about how Frank was not around much when his kids were growing up.  Zappa always came across in interviews as honest (down to his bluntness of fooling around with groupies on tour, getting VD, having it treated and moving on), and Winter affords Frank the same honesty here.  Musicians that recorded and/or toured with Zappa's Mothers of Invention band are some of the legit best in the business; here they sometimes talk about how they sometimes couldn't keep up with Frank's ideas.  As a musician who admires many of these luminaries of the industry, some of them boarding on adoration (drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, who recorded & toured with Zappa in the late 70's-early/mid-80's, is absolutely a musical drumming god amongst the rest of us mere mortals) I'm almost taken aback hearing some of them (like Steve Vai) flat-out talk about how they were at times not good enough.  While that kind of blows my mind, it's a testament to Zappa's ingenuity and talents as both a composer and guitar player.

ZAPPA takes us through Frank's life in a way that feels like it hits all the highlights.  Winter had access to Zappa's archival vault, something no other filmmaker had been able to do; that gives us TONS of awesome homemade films Zappa made: not just home movies, but other fictional endeavors that Frank worked on before his music career blossomed.  Even as someone who's not in love with Zappa's body of work I found PLENTY to keep me both interested and in awe.  ZAPPA does a great job of also showcasing Frank's diplomatic work (being a sort-of diplomat when Czech Republic tore away from communism into a free country) as well as he being a strong advocate for Freedom of Speech and Assembly as they pertain to music.  Zappa advocated free speech and defended artists like Prince and Bruce Springsteen (amongst MANY others) when those artists kept quiet.  Frank even bluntly explained it was their right to keep their mouths shut and not protest and he had zero problems fighting for their lyrics when they wouldn't.

This is a really wonderful documentary; if you every wrote-off Zappa as just another weirdo-type, give this a watch and get to know the artist behind the "weird" music.

Offline FBS

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Re: ZAPPA - documentary about an artistic (if weird) genius
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2021, 12:46:56 AM »
My boss was friends with Frank for about twenty years. He was a music journalist who Frank really liked and they became close friends.
The stories he tells me about them two together are hilarious.

I don't think he has seen this doc yet.

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Re: ZAPPA - documentary about an artistic (if weird) genius
« Reply #2 on: Today at 10:52:49 AM »

Offline perc2100

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Re: ZAPPA - documentary about an artistic (if weird) genius
« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2021, 01:43:38 PM »
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My boss was friends with Frank for about twenty years. He was a music journalist who Frank really liked and they became close friends.
The stories he tells me about them two together are hilarious.

I don't think he has seen this doc yet.
Wow, I'm sure there are plenty of great stories there!  I've always thought Zappa would be one of the few celebrities I would legit love having an hours-long conversation with about music & life and such.