DIRECTOR: FRANK ZAPPA
COUNTRY: USA 1972
CAST: The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Theodore Bikel, Ringo Starr, Mark Volman, Howard Kaylan
SUPER FEATURES: The music ... and it's Frank Zappa. Hopefully you know the difference!
It is a real shame that someone like Frank Zappa gets commissioned to do an opera for one of the world's music centers, Austria, but his work goes by barely noticed in his native country.....
While 200 MOTELS is not exactly for everyone, it is hard to follow, and what comes off as a drugged mentality, is actually a very well
designed, and composed piece, while not as well done on film as compared to the orchestra playing the piece. There are vocal styles, which even today are being worked with by many classical composers.... and they are not easy to play, or sing. And it is a tribute to a musical genius that it can be pulled off.
While I would like to see a piece of work which tackled more interesting themes than mere rock'n'roll-iness, Frank's work for the American
radio have retained a sort of disguised identity, probably to make sure he himself does not fall prey to a stylized social stigma which he himself has witnessed...his family has been known to have rescued many actors and artists from the many overdoses of everything (Frank has been anti drugs, even during his early albums when he was already making fun of it ).
200 MOTELS, twenty years later, still holds up musically, where much of the music of that day has long gone and faded away into goldies radio.
This film is a look at the distorted mind state one gets in a road tour, in this case, the invisible 200 motels that bands stay in. The mind deranges, tires, the players all fight and disagree, and the bands often break apart. And to bring this off, the film takes on the look of the psychedelic shows of the 60's, with an incredible array of images superimposed on musicians, and the visuals of the situation. At this point it is hard to distinguish between reality and the ideal which the music is about.... but that is the story and theme of this film.
Of interest here are a few people, like Keith Moon dressed up as a nun, Ringo Starr (the only Beatle big enough to play with Frank
Zappa), Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan who were the two mainstays behind the popular group THE TURTLES, and their magnificent vocalizations which lend themselves well to Frank's material. The magnificent orchestra playing what could be considered nerve wrecking music because it does not have simple passages to relax with is conducted by Elgar Howarth ... Aynsley Dunbar on drums and George Duke on horns and keyboards.... two superb musicians in their young days, learning a craft that they play so well today....Pamela Miller, of the groupie fame (Pamela Des Barres) who went on to write a book about her time from the early days.
RECOMMENDED, IF YOU GO TO SEE IT AS ... ANYTHING GOES MOOD. HAS COMEDIC TOUCHES WHICH ARE VERY SOUTHERN CAL-ISH, like satires on commercial products and their addictiveness....
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