When it was revealed that Alex Winter was granted unconditional support from Zappa’s family and access to all of the content in their infamous vault I knew in my gut that something special had to be in the works and I’m happy to reveal that I was not disappointed. With complete editorial freedom, Winter managed to craft a visual diary of Zappa’s legacy or should I say odyssey? With just over 2 hours of archival footage, not a single second is ever dull.
Chronicling his early exposure to rhythm and blues in his adolescent days and his reluctance to cookie-cutter music, we’re taken through a journey to his debut Freak Out and from there this film charges like a locomotive, never slowing down. Through 62 album recordings, a Rock no’ Roll Hall of Fame induction, a joyfully weird SNL guest spot, and interviews with admirers like Alice Cooper, there is absolutely no stone left unturned. As his admiration and flaws are revealed by colleagues and loved ones, there is no denying that his presence had an impact on everyone he crossed paths with.
I particularly enjoyed learning about how The Beatles modeled their Sgt. Pepper album after Freak Out and Zappa returned the favor by doing a mock-up of their album with his creative visual partner Cal Schenkel. It also warmed my heart to learn that his one true hit record Valley Girl was not just a collaboration with his daughter Moon, but a chance to rekindle their relationship.
The film wraps with Zappa’s crusade against censorship and monumental farewell concert that ended in a twenty-minute standing ovation. After that, we see what Zappa went through as his health began to decline and it’s not always easy to sit through. Zappa is a loving tribute to a composer, an independent artist, and a filmmaker. A man who became a myth and just like this film, truly one of a kind.
Watch the trailer: