Eat That Question: Frank Zappa In His Own Words is a documentary without a single shot of new footage. Instead, the film is comprised of archival video interviews and performances, spanning thirty years of Zappa's career. A lot of this footage is new to U.S. audiences, since director Thorsten Schütte was able to dig up a lot of clips and interviews from Zappa's European TV appearances.
Growing up, I was always aware of Zappa's music, since my father was a fan. And since I came of age during the days of MTV, I saw a lot of Zappa's activism, fighting against censorship and those warning labels that eventually made their way onto albums, CDs, and tapes. (He might have been amused to know most music fans ended up seeking out those warning labels, since it meant they were gonna get something dirty.)
Eat That Question is the kind of movie that will likely be very enjoyable to his fans, but less compelling to those less familiar. Zappa does a lot of pontificating in these interviews, and when you listen to them back to back, it can sometimes comes off as sanctimonious lecturing. And it's kind of hard to take lecturing from a man whose lyrics could often be interpreted as homophobic and sexist.
This could have been countered with more musical performances, and by hearing his musical satire in better context. Instead, almost as if in deference to Zappa, who in the movie, scolds those fans who only liked his first three records, director Schütte gives more attention to Zappa's later classical and jazz instrumental work. (And, of course, there's also only passing reference to "Valley Girl," his biggest hit.) I wasn't a huge Frank Zappa fan going into the movie, but I'm sad to say, I was a little less of one coming out of it.
Eat That Question is currently playing at the Embarcadero Center Cinema.