“ I’m famous, but most people don’t know what I do”
Growing up when I did, I knew Frank Zappa for his children’s names and his battle with Tipper Gore on placing warning labels on music. Before that Zappa was known as a musician, who while was often labeled a rock musician he often broke free of that as someone who was ahead of the curve musically. Having died in 1993 of prostate cancer it seems long over due for a man who defied any label placed upon him. Zappa was not your ordinary man, and because of that, he doesn’t deserve the typical documentary about his life. It would have been easy for filmmaker Thorsten Schutte to interview the people who knew Zappa best, but that wouldn’t have been right, not for this man.
What Thorsten did was compile interviews and concert footage and let Zappa tell his own story, in a way only Zappa could. From the beginning you could tell he was never going to be the typical rock star. Zappa did more than sing, he composed and wrote music that was like a round peg trying to fit in a square hole. While his music felt like an acquired taste, Zappa as a human being was not much different. He was never one who kept his opinions to himself, often going against the grain with and challenging anyone in an intelligent conversation. The film follows thirty years of Zappa’s life, and at the end you feel like we didn’t get enough time with this amazing artist.
Knowing as little as I did about Zappa, as I stated before, I was looking forward to filling in the spaces of what I knew of the man. Schutte not only filled in those spaces but he entertained me with the way he choose to tell Zappa’s story. After one viewing you quickly figure that this was the only way to tell this, as Zappa is too unique to be painted with any other brush. Schutte was the perfect filmmaker to help Zappa paint his own picture and let us judge the final piece. As I finished the film I walked away glad I took the time to watch this, so I could learn what I now believe to be one of the more important artist of the last fifty years. Everything is clearer with understanding and this film helps you glimpse inside Zappa and his life, and you will be hard press to find a much better documentary this year.