How does Frank Zappa want to be remembered?
Uh . . . it’s not important.
Want to be remembered for the music?
It’s not important . . . the people who worry about being remembered are guys like Reagan, Bush. These people want to be remembered . . .
And Frank Zappa?
I don’t care.
This documentary seeks to delve into the world of Frank Zappa using all archival footage of interviews and concerts. Unfortunately, it comes across as pretty shallow and not all that interesting. I don’t know who it’s for. I don’t think it’s a good intro to Zappa. It focuses on a lot of late Zappa music, kind of on the classical side of his composition, not his best stuff in my opinion at all. But it’s also not really for people who are already fans. To me, it seems to not even come close to doing justice to the complexity of the man and I’ve heard less than a quarter of his discography; the Zappa completest will doubtless be insulted by the film. This isn’t to say that it doesn’t have pleasures. The interviews are fine, if not particularly engaging. The film has two really great bits, one from the very beginning of Zappa’s career, the other from the very end. There’s a wonderful film of him on the Steve Allen Show three years before Freak Out was released, performing an improvised piece on two bicycles. It’s warm and witty and compelling. The other is an interview from 1993, the year Zappa died, with the Today Show and it’s deeply emotional and beautiful. Zappa was, I think, often kind of opaque in interviews; he himself called the entire process of interviewing someone ridiculous. Like Dylan, you could never be quite sure when he was being entirely candid and when he was having you on. In this Today Show interview, I think you see Zappa at his most honest and least pretentious; he’s as vulnerable and real as he could ever be in that interview, I think, and it’s a heartbreaker. You can find both of those sequences online, I reckon, and watch them in their entirety, not chopped up as in the movie and skip a solid hour and ten of mostly uninteresting footage. Maybe it was just a bad idea from the get-go; an artist like Zappa could never be summed up in ninety minutes, not even by himself. 2 stars
tl;dr – unfocused documentary features a small amount of great footage, but is mostly forgettable and superficial, failing to do Zappa anything near justice; sum up Zappa in ninety minutes? Nope. 2 stars.