I’m not sure exactly how you might categorize Frank Zappa and I’m pretty sure that’s exactly how he would have wanted it. Obviously, he was a musician, leading his beloved band, The Mothers of Invention, for the better portion of four decades, but he was so much more than that. I won’t go as far as to say that you’re going to come away with a total understanding of the man after seeing the new documentary about him entitled Eat That Question, but you’ll certainly come away with a better perspective on who he was and, best of all, his unique world view.
Whether or not you’re a fan of Zappa’s brand of music—I’m not—will have no bearing on your ability to enjoy the experience of Eat That Question. It’s a breezy film, clocking in at just a bit over 90 minutes, and it’s very easy to digest. The film has no narration. It’s basically just a well-selected pastiche of clips of Zappa, mostly in interviews conducted over the decades while he was in the public eye, espousing his opinions on everything from politics to fame to music and many other subjects that are too varied and numerous to list. His opinions are so carefully cultivated and articulately stated that it’s hard not be caught up in the spirit of his enthusiasm for the subjects with which he was obviously so passionate.
Eat That Question touches on basically all of the many phases of Zappa’s career, beginning with his TV appearances from the 60s as he attempts to make music from a bicycle and moving onward until the early 90s, shortly before his passing. Along the way, he tangles with anyone who goes against his world view, even telling one interviewer that he has no interest in being remembered and that being remembered is for politicians who spend their lives attempting to do just that. Interestingly, in spite of famously being grouped into the category of drug addict, we do learn that the extent of Zappa’s drug use consisted of nine joints over the course of a lifetime and not much else. It’s one of the many insights that are to be gleaned from the film.
Watching the film I felt a real sense of loss when reflecting upon the fact that Zappa has now been gone nearly a quarter of a century. He was one of those that are labeled irreplaceable and that would be correct. There simply isn’t anyone out there making the observations that Zappa was prone to do and I can’t help but wonder what he would make out of our current political climate. It’s a real shame that we don’t have the opportunity to find out.
Questions or comments? Write Adam at [email protected].