In a film of mostly-chronological Frank Zappa performance footage and archival interviews, we see Zappa eat his journalistic interviewers’ lunch—sometimes aggressively, sometimes dismissively, but never with anything but honesty based on the conviction that he was the smartest man in the room. Nor did he duck questions; as he nears his 1993 cancer death, Zappa directly, unemotionally admits having more bad days than good, and not working as hard as he had. This is a portrait of the artist as, in Rossellini’s formulation about Charlie Chaplin, a free man—absolutely free, a Zappa fan might say. He literally gave no fornications, which is why his persona—and this film—wear so well. Within 90 minutes, director Thorsten Schutte does a decent job both of representing the various phases of Zappa’s career (though he was too prolific and eclectic to cover satisfactorily) and of sampling related topics: Zappa’s politics (apart from censorship from both political sides, he was an uninterested aesthete), drugs (agin’ ’em), and all the Problematics. “Tinsel Town Rebellion” could not be released today, and one knows Zappa would have made it anyway. He was a free man.
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