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104. Zappa; movie review

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Title : 104. Zappa; movie review
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Cert TBA
129 mins
BBFC advice: TBA

Frank Zappa was anti-drugs?
The fella who called his kids Moon Unit and Dweezil and made all that crazy music, surely had to be high most of the time, didn't he?
Apparently not - indeed, he appeared in a sketch on Saturday Night Live with John Belushi and Bill Murray where they were equally incredulous.
Clearly, there was much more to Zappa than I had realised and this revelation was only a slice of the surprise contained with Alex Winter's documentary.
It chronicles Zappa's life from his childhood during which free-thinking was encouraged.
The movie makes it clear that from his early days, he did not see or even hear the world quite the same as everyone else.
Nor was he ever going to be willing to play second fiddle.
Therefore, he could be perceived as treating people badly because they could not fulfil exactly what he demanded of them.
Winter's film includes many contributions from those who were in Zappa's circle and some who were ejected from it.
The most insightful is his wife Gail who stayed with him despite knowing that he had many other liaisons while on the road.
Apparently, Zappa's family had previously spurned the idea of an authorised biopic but Gail was persuaded by Winter and, consequently, the film is packed with archive footage which was in her vault.
Sadly, she died before the movie was completed.
That is a great pity because, while it offers the context of his unfeeling side, this also highlights what Zappa offered to the world.
For example, how many rock musicians have written so much material for orchestras and received 20-minute ovations at a public performance?
And how many have stood up against censorship or even helped a foreign country which was establishing itself after Soviet occupation?
Zappa did all of the above - and it is laid out with precision in Winter's film whose contents are remarkable and compelling.

Reasons to watch: Surprise after surprise.
Reasons to avoid: A tribute rather than a biopic

Laughs: None
Jumps: None
Vomit: None
Nudity: Yes
Overall rating: 8.5/10

Did you know? Surprisingly, Zappa 
was strictly opposed to the consumption of any mind-altering drug. Disgusted by his experience with cannabis, he waged war against hallucinogens and threatened to fire any and all of his musicians found to be using drugs during a concert. During the 1960s, he even recorded a series of radio announcements warning against the use of mind-altering drugs.

The final word. Alex Winter: "We cut a little sizzle together about six years ago, that conveyed the type of movie we’d want to make. I presented that to Gail Zappa, his widow, and my opening salvo was, “I don’t wanna make a music doc. I don’t really see Frank as a rock and roll musician, at all. To me, he was more of an avant-garde composer and a pop-cultural figure and someone who was very at odds with his times and connected to them, at the same time.” And she really liked that. That is why we got access to the vault." Collider


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