By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
Frank Zappa was an artist whose musical talent and ingenuity often gets overshadowed by his eccentric personality and his few hit songs. Case in point, prior to seeing this film, I had no idea how bold and innovative his music really was when first released. I, too, was guilty of only being aware of his idiosyncracies, some funny and unusual songs, and his fight against censorship by the Parents Musical Resource Center during the 1980s. Now having seen, Eat That Question, I have to say I am rather impressed with the talents of Frank Zappa, and I applaud his unabashed and unfiltered expression of his beliefs and convictions (though I can’t say that I agree with all of them). At the same time, I left this documentary wanting more information and more insight on his more personal side, and not the “mad”man who bewildered some of the press and public during his interviews and television appearances.
Directed by Thorsten Schutte, Eat That Question: Frank Zappa In His Own Words is a compilation of interviews, archival performances, television appearances, and film footage intended to comprehensively present the career of Frank Zappa. For people completely unfamiliar with the artist or those (like me) who know only so much, Schutte’s film is good place to begin learning about Zappa, the artist, iconoclast, and outspoken political activist. Even though the footage does include interviews where Zappa discusses his family life, there are no clips featuring his family or personal life. The film does highlight some of Zappa’s music, but a more in-depth examination of his immense discography would probably require a lengthier film or even a miniseries.
Based on the ground covered in this film, I have some trouble believing that it has anything new to offer die-hard Zappa fans. Former actor and filmmaker Alex Winter has begun working on a documentary film about Zappa. Winter launched a crowdfunding campaign for the film back in April of this year. According to an interview with Winter that I read on Forbes.com, Winter wishes to delve deeper and cover more aspects about Zappa’s life and career. Until that film sees the light of day, I still recommend this documentary as an interesting and moderately informative introduction to the artist. However, I think the hardcore fans should hang tight and see what Alex Winter’s film has to offer.