Zappa Movie Review! JM says, “(Alex) Winter wows audiences and takes them on a most excellent adventure.”

The best documentary filmmaker right now is not named Alex Gibney, Steven James or Michael Moore, but Alex Winter. Once again, Winter wows audiences and takes them on a most excellent adventure with “Zappa.”

Frank Zappa’s impact and influence is undeniable in the music industry. He was a one of a kind musician and curator of the arts. Thanks to unprecedented and unfettered access, “Zappa” explores the man behind the music providing powerful and private insight into the icon’s life. Alex Winter has gathered an assortment of collaborators including Mike Keneally, Ian Underwood, Steve Vai, Pamela Des Barres, Bunk Gardner, David Harrington, Scott Thunes, Ruth Underwood, Ray White and others to create a fascinating film.The man, the myth and music legend is easily identifiable by name. However, how many people truly know “Zappa”? Frank Zappa was an experimental rock pioneer and creative composer, who always stretched the limits of what was possible in music. He transcended genres and thrived as a political performer, never shying away from honesty. Although the film covers most of the same subject matter as the similar documentary “Eat That Question,” this film’s eccentric and entertaining moments are a testament to Alex Winter’s wonderful vision.

Sure some might know him best as Bill S. Preston, Esq. from the franchise “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” but for the past 10 years he has emerged as one of the most premier, prolific documentary filmmakers of today. During that span he directed the critically acclaimed “Downloaded” (2012), “Deep Web: The Untold Story of Bitcoin and the Silk Road” (2015), “The Panama Papers” (2018), “Trust Machine: The Story Of Blockchain” (2018) and “Showbiz Kids” (2020). You can tell Winter feels liberated with whatever projects he tackles and the projects seem like gratifying experience every time. Alex Winter is a truly transformative filmmaker and an elite documentarian. I can truly state I have never seen a bad Alex Winter film (His directorial debut “Freaked” will always hold a special place in my heart). All throughout “Zappa,” Winter works wonders with his interviews and the way he captures his subjects shine brightly creating a compelling depth no matter what’s being discussed. You can clearly see the influences of Luis Buñuel, Frederick Wiseman, Werner Herzog, Steven James and Robert Frank.
Robert Frank’s influence is absolutely sprinkled throughout “Zappa” and the amazing assortment of archival footage is jaw dropping. There are the juicy parts, but it’s what most might perceive as “mundane” and boring that is brilliant hearing Frank Zappa talk intimately. He create a genuinely great atmosphere with his narrative arc and doesn’t deceive audience members by creating a grandiose grotesque cliché documentary. “Zappa” is an epic, entertaining movie and a wonderful introduction to the music icon. You get a real sense of the man and how he was ever-evolving almost kind of like a song by the namesake.

Frank Zappa had an enormous and prolific career despite dying at age 52 from prostate cancer. Considering he released 62 albums and an additional 54 albums released posthumously (so far), “Zappa” almost feels like the first chapter in an amazing book. It’s up to the viewer if they really want to keep reading about a genre-defying, nonconformist, experimental and musical virtuoso.  Much like Frank Zappa’s music, the sublime stylization and storytelling is a magical music documentary worth experiencing and going on a wonderful ride.

3 ½ out of 4 stars

 “Zappa” will be available in theaters and on demand starting November 27th

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