a journey into the mystery of the last artist who challenged music

The documentary ‘Zappa’ is released in Spanish cinemas, a new approach to the extensive musical career of the mythical artist Frank Zappa after the previous attempt ‘Frank Zappa in his own words’ (Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words, 2016) by Thorsten Schütte, who complements him by giving it a new dimension through interviews, but exploring your private life from a completely new perspective.

Much more complete and complex than the previous one, the new approach has been possible thanks to unlimited access to the legacy of the Zappa family and all the images and recordings of the musician’s vast archive – the documentary opens with the artist himself taking us through the warehouse where he archives his impossible recording of music and video -, which makes the approach to his life and work almost exclusively based on audiovisual material of a pristine quality, even in small hall concert recordings.

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It is still funny that the documentary was directed by Alex Winter, or Bill, Keanu Reeves’ partner in the very rock adventure saga of Bill and Ted, who is now dedicated to directing pieces like this or ‘Deep Web’ (2015), a disturbing study on the ditto with which it has achieved a prestigious status in the format, this biopic being a work that exceeds the category of musical journey and is presented almost as a thesis, a deep, kaleidoscopic study of one of the most unfathomable personalities of the culture of the twentieth century.

Winter includes interviews with Gail Zappa, Zappa’s widow, as well as several of his hard-working musical collaborators such as Mike Keneally, Ian Underwood, Steve Vai, Pamela Des Barres, Bunk Gardner, David Harrington, Scott Thunes, Ruth Underwood o Ray White. But the most important material is the hours and hours of content (also never-before-heard interviews with other journalists) that had never seen the light of day and that have made up much of the previous work, and no, not just viewing and selecting it.

After contacting his widow, they immediately went to work in 2015 to preserve the warehouse material, which alone took two years of work and a lot of money. Even the woman died shortly after starting the process, so the interviews we see are already from a first contact seven years ago. A long-term project that has its fruits, discovering first-hand Zappa’s creative vocation from a very young age. He learned to edit at 6 years old.

Unpublished facets of a guitar enigma

His youth films were home edits that he made with his siblings or images of his parents’ wedding mixed with Godzilla movies and 1950s B-series in an effect not unlike what experimental filmmakers like Stan Brakhage were doing at the time, and these early revelations make his career take on a multidisciplinary edge that the documentary explores and extols on his mere recording career, which any mortal would consider unattainable.

Frank Zappa Documentary Soundtrack Featured

Zappa saw published 62 albums in his lifetime, but after his death a whopping 53 have been released. An overwhelming variety that only in its quantity could make one lose sight of the objectives of the piece, which is to tell a story with its own character, for which Winter expertly organizes the material to cover the very varied facets of the artist’s life. : the mad composer genius, the virtuoso of the blues electric guitar, dadaist, satirical, surrealist …

It covers his provocative side, along with his political commitment to freedom of expression in the Tipper Gore era, filmmaker, director with stop motion magician Bruce Bickford, comedian on SNL, underground guru in the 60s and 70s, the family man when his work allowed him and even the conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, everything is woven into a portrait that seeks to capture how a person can be seen. man totally free from ties, concessions or any threat to his most transparent integrity.

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Controlled multidisciplinary chaos

A utopia that the one from Baltimore did not achieve right off the bat, and many times his performances and pace of work and demand for The Mothers of Invention was such that he did not want to involve people in his adventure whom he could not pay properly. Like George A. Romero in the movies, Zappa did not compromise his way of seeing art, and this is perhaps the most painful thing to verify, since his symphonic work was too far from classical conventions for him to carry out his pieces with a real orchestra.


He went faster than his scholars and only at the end of his life can one glimpse how he finally approached the absolute musical avant-garde without giving up his conception of the show, which was from turning his back on his audience or performances typical of the theater of panic. They were quite radical proposals for a pop musician, who perhaps connected with personalities like Fernando Arrabal, Miles Davis or Andy Kaufman. The documentary ends with his last concert, which shows his interaction with the audience, musicians and even actors that captures the Zappa spirit at a glance.

In his research, Winter discovers that there are several unpublished classics and even a soundtrack he did for the film ‘The Fly’ (The Fly, 1986) the film by David Cronenberg, without his knowing it, with samples of fly sounds. One of the many nuances to the unsolvable enigma of Zappa, who was a different personality for each person with whom he related, even those who played with him for 20 years, sure of knowing him, collide with the vision of other “experts”.

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An unusual approach to an inimitable genius

Many positions ramble on whether or not he really wanted to be a rock musician, demanding that he be taken seriously as a classical composer, but the documentary rejects that theory showing that all its facets are its conscious expressions and they were not aimed at achieving a particular objective. Perhaps the most difficult thing to understand is how this multifaceted work is combined with the person, avoiding remaining in an irreverent position, trying to connect with their inner life and their emotional life.


His sense of humor, charisma, and questionable workaholism go beyond the mad genius drawing and feature a man with ideas so clear that it is intimidating at times. Sometimes we can face the character with his looks or his answers in interviews, and sometimes the mammoth work of editing both images and sound is not perceived, whose audio design, always taken from the musician’s work, is sometimes so subtle that it only complements silences in a totally camouflaged way.

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It doesn’t matter if you like their music or not, ‘Zappa’ takes you into an absorbing universe, the world that grows around a creator beyond the idea of ​​the rocker, an iconoclast who does not seek to be oneIt is the pure expression of anarchy, danger and excellence. Perhaps an alien, perhaps a human who did not have the body of a human to make his ideas come true, a whole journey of no return that leaves the impression that two hours do not arrive to try to understand it, but they do manage to sort out the key guidelines to learn how to try.