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Film review: "Eat That Question" 

With a background in classical music, a yen for the absurd, and a desire to disrupt the status quo, rock musician Frank Zappa was a true iconoclast. The bandleader and activist now gets the documentary treatment in Thorsten Schütte's "Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words."

Spanning both Zappa's solo career and his time with his band, The Mothers of Invention, up until his death from cancer at the age of 52, the film is made up almost entirely of archival interview footage with the musician. It's a method that's a bit ironic considering that at one point we see footage of Zappa explaining that "being interviewed is one of the most abnormal things that you can do to somebody else; it's two steps removed from the inquisition."

Zappa was critical of the media (once describing rock journalism as "people who can't write, interviewing people who can't talk, for people who can't read") and bristled at its portrayal of him, lamenting that "the more abstract and weird they make me look, the less access I have to people who might agree [with the message] if they heard it."

Without any additional commentary or background, the film doesn't quite function as a complete portrait of the artist, and if you're not already familiar with Zappa's avant-garde music, this probably isn't the best way to go about acquainting yourself. A bit more context might have helped, particularly in building a case for Zappa's lasting impact on modern music. But that seems appropriate for a man who claimed to be unconcerned about the legacy he left behind; to him it didn't matter whether he was remembered after his passing. Still, Schütte's film paints a vivid portrait of the man himself, putting us inside the uniquely opinionated and politically-minded headspace of a cultural icon.

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