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Zappa (2020).Zappa (2020)

This musical documentary about the legendary Frank Zappa (1940–1993) begins backstage in Prague at what would be his last recorded guitar performance.  He turns to his band and says, "Uh, I'll just show you a chord. And we'll just set up a rhythm on one chord, and I'll start doing something. Make it up. It won't be professional. It'll just be music. Homemade hoopla." Since this was Zappa, that could be just about any sort of musical genre, from jazz to classical to pop, rock, and most certainly extreme experimentation. Across his thirty-year career, Zappa released 62 albums; since his death another 53 have been released. That remarkable life work, as we see in the movie, was meticulously and comprehensively archived by Zappa in his family vault. This film draws upon about 1000 hours of "mostly unseen" material from those archives, used with permission from the Zappa family trust, along with the expected archival footage from concerts and interviews. The movie captures the many infuriating contradictions and complexities of Zappa. He was a workaholic and control freak. He never had any formal music training. All of life, it seemed, was a performative antic for him. Many considered his raunchy humor to be sophomoric (cf. Sheik Yerbouti). He was a fierce critic of society, especially its politics and religion. He was aloof, and admitted he had no friends. He repudiated drugs and its self-destructive culture. But beneath it all, a ceaselessly innovative, creative, and non-conformist musician. I watched this movie on Hulu.

Dan Clendenin:

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