“Eat That Question: Frank Zappa In His Own Words”
Directed by Thorsten Schütte
Crushed as I was at the deaths of two of my “Mt. Rushmore of Music” heroes this year, I’d somehow forgotten about one of the VERY few artists who could match the prolific and unending artistry of David Bowie and Prince. Frank Zappa was always a misrepresented man. Our memories of him are filled with images of the crazy hair, the sexual content of his lyrics and a belief that he was a drug-addled bizarro. I actually knew differently, as I was a huge fan throughout my late teens and twenties. But there can be no doubt that the record industry and the media painted him as something to keep our children away from.
Zappa died 23 years ago, and it’s amazing that it has taken this long for someone to set the record straight via a thoughtful and artful documentary. Best of all, this doc lets him speak for himself as Mr. Schütte gets out of the way entirely, using nothing but interviews of Zappa on various television shows to paint a VERY different picture of the genius composer. His editing is mostly energetic and quick, and yet manages to keep a sense of chronology throughout. There is no narrator, no titling, and no clips where he isn’t the focus. As a result, the ninety minutes flies by and is educational, illuminating, questioning and fulfilling. This is exclusively due to the concepts about which Zappa challenged the status quo, and, more importantly, the intelligent and irreverent manner in which he communicates them. You will spend fifty percent of the film laughing and fifty percent turning your head sideways, thinking, “huh…that’s REALLY interesting”.
If I have any criticisms it would revolve around the concert footage. It must’ve been difficult for Schütte to find cinema-worthy footage, since there was never a lot of concert television appearances (compared to the plethora of interviews), but some of the clips went on a bit long in trying to backup a quote or discussion. But this is a very small quibble.
When trying to make a list of the Top Ten musical geniuses in our lifetime, Zappa very much belongs in the discussion, and this film will do more explaining as to why than I ever could. It will make you laugh…and it will make you miss him (even if you knew nothing of him prior)….which I’d forgotten to do. He deserves our remembrance and re-understanding…and this film is the perfect vehicle for that.
Written July 3, 2016