Duration: 2 Hrs 09 Mins
Director: Alex Winter
Writer: Alex Winter
Based On: The Real Frank Zappa Book
Producers: Jade Allen, Ivan Askwith, Devorah DeVries, John Frizzell, Robert A. Halmi, Eileen Kwon, John Morzen, Mike J. Nichols, Damir Omic, Jim Reeve, Alex Winter, Ahmet Zappa, Glen Zipper
Music: Mike J. Nichols, Frank Zappa
Cinematography: Anghel Decca
Editing: Mike J. Nichols
Release Date: 27 November 2020 (USA)
Star Cast: Frank Zappa, Steve Vai, Pamela Des Barres, Gail Zappa, Ian Underwood, Ruth Underwood, Scott Thunes, Mike Keneally, Ray White, David Harrington, Bunk Gardner
Plot: A thorough look into the life and work of musician Frank Zappa.
Review: Alex Winter’s ‘Zappa’ is a documentary that plunges into Frank Zappa, an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, composer, and bandleader. The documentary touches just about every side of his career and life, and is filled with rare footage of Zappa from his teenage years.
With this documentary, the director has managed to capture everything that made Zappa so special; including the chaotic live shows, the deceptively tangled composition and song writing, the endlessly effective worldview – and bundled it all into a portrait that feels fresh, engaging, and alive!
Alex Winter opens his film with Zappa’s last recorded guitar performance in the Czech Republic, where he had been invited to celebrate the withdrawal of Russian troops.
When Alex Winter takes on a subject like this one, he does not just explore it; he surrounds and penetrates it, therefore, the director’s archival approach effectively allows Frank Zappa (who died of prostate cancer at the age of 52 in 1993) to narrate his own life story.
Since Zappa was one of the most expressive rockers of his generation, through TV interviews, recorded memoirs, and assorted self-directed odds and ends, his unmistakable, sneering drawl serves as the glue that holds the film together.
However, apart from some insights from his wife and bandmates into his well-hidden softer side, there is not much information here that is not covered in his highly entertaining 1989 autobiography The Real Frank Zappa Book.
In spite of his personal aloofness, he kept on inspiring the musicians who worked with him; in interviews, the pianist Ruth Underwood and the guitarist Steve Vai gets very emotional when contemplating his loss.
Overall, Zappa is a captivating documentary that delivers a comprehensive portrait of the provocative musical polymath Frank Zappa.