Frank Zappa Tours Italy In This Intimate Music Documentary
Filmmaker Salvo Cuccia explores the idiosyncratic rock legend Frank Zappa’s 1982 European tour in Summer ’82: When Zappa Came To Sicily. A big Zappa fan himself that missed attending the 1982 tour, it would end in disaster. Cuccia’s film has rare backstage footage and telling recollections from Zappa’s friend and biographer, Massimo Bassoli.
The feature documentary tells a behind-the-scenes story of how the last concert of the tour in Palermo, Sicily ended in gun shots and tear gas as the Italian concertgoers started riots. We get a tender and occasionally fawning portrait of the nonconformist rock star, singer of such songs as Dancin’ Fool. It’s a loving ode to the deceased musician from a uniquely personal perspective, filling in some of Zappa’s family life and legacy for younger fans that may not have seen the rock star in action.
… a private glimpse into his family life rarely seen before
… a private glimpse into his family life rarely seen before
Made with the full cooperation of Zappa’s family, Summer ’82: When Zappa Came To Sicily is a highly personal perspective on the rock star that interviews his wife and adult children as they recall Frank Zappa’s familial connection to Sicily. An Italian-American by birth, Frank Zappa felt deeply connected to Sicily through his father. That connection is explored here in intimate detail, interviewing his wife Gail and their three children, Dweezil, Moon, and Diva. Dweezil and Diva return to the small town of Partinico, retracing the steps their father took back in 1982 looking for his heritage. It’s a warm, tender moment celebrating their father’s life that adds a real personal touch to this documentary.
The documentary weaves 1982 concert footage, admittedly rough in quality, with interviews from friends and family of Frank Zappa. Filling in most of the behind-the-scenes details for Zappa’s 1982 European tour is his good friend and biographer, Massimo Bassoli. He first started out as sort of a guide for Zappa in his touring days and Bassoli shares his memories of that time in colorful detail.
The centerpiece of this documentary is the troubled concert that took place in Palermo, which ended badly in riots. Coming days after the Italians had won the World Cup and in the middle of a brutal mafia war that had claimed 100 victims, Zappa’s concert descended into chaos. Playing in a stadium not designed for a rock concert, the Italian fans were subjected to tear gas after gun shots started ringing out at the concert.
This is a movie for those Zappa fans that would like to hear about the musician’s life through the prism of his 1982 Italian tour, one of the more memorable events in his long career. It offers a private glimpse into his family life rarely seen before, allowing us better insight into the iconoclastic rocker’s mind. While it does include Zappa’s music, this is not a concert film by any stretch. If you want to see Frank Zappa’s family remember him and pay tribute to him, Summer ’82: When Zappa Came To Sicily is for you. This warm documentary is a nicely crafted remembrance of the rock star.
MVDVisual distributes Summer ’82: When Zappa Came To Sicily on Blu-ray in a fine, steady presentation. The documentary is the standard mixture of talking-head interviews in perfect video with much rougher archival 1982 footage of Frank Zappa and his band.
Making allowances for the archival Palermo footage of the 1982 Italian concert and personal Super 8 footage that introduces the Italian setting, the 1080P video has excellent clarity and definition. That is mostly thanks to the brand-new, digitally filmed interviews that are peppered throughout the documentary. Zappa’s adult children are filmed in stunning clarity and detail as they re-visit Partinico, their father’s ancestral town.
The 83-minute main feature is on a BD-25. Encoded in extremely generous AVC compression parameters, this is a tight presentation done with care. The archival concert footage is rough, often shown in a strange fish-eye lens that greatly limits the picture quality. It’s not much better than VHS-level video quality with muddy colors and limited contrast for the vintage portions. The entire documentary is shown in a standard 1.78:1 aspect ratio that switches to 4:3 for some of the classic concert video.
Summer ’82: When Zappa Came to Sicily comes with a solid, if limited, 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack with both English and Italian dialogue in the documentary. Constructed around newly-recorded talking-head interviews and archival snippets of the 1982 concert itself, the audio has crisp, clean sound in full fidelity.
The soundtrack does include Zappa’s inventive music sprinkled throughout in small doses. This isn’t an elaborate audio mix. There are precious few surround moments outside of the family’s visit to the small village in Sicily. Some of Frank Zappa’s bigger hits are heard in abbreviated clips at healthy quality, from Dancing Fool to Valley Girl. While some of Zappa’s music can be heard throughout the documentary, expect a more subdued soundtrack than your usual rock concert recording.
English subtitles display during the Italian passages in a white font. They can’t be turned be off. With the disc possibly being authored for the Italian market as well, optional Italian subtitles play in a yellow font during English dialogue when you engage the English subtitles that play for the entire feature.
There isn’t much here in terms of special features. Considering how personal the documentary seems for Zappa’s family and the filmmaker, a commentary would have been a nice addition.
Photo Gallery (12:56 in HD) – A series of images play on their own as Frank Zappa’s music plays in the background. The pictures are behind-the-scenes glimpses from the concert and more recent photos. The user has no control over how the images play out, so you have to sit back and enjoy the ride.
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