Movie about concerts are mainly aimed at fans of the artists. Who else would want to sit through two hours of a band performing on stage? You get to hear the hits and see how singer sounded outside the studio. It’s a concert film. Sometimes they enhance the performance. Frank Zappa is not a stranger to concert films. During his 53 years, he’s recorded quite a few shows on film and video. But you have to really be into Zappa’s music and humor to enjoy the films. Frank Zappa – Summer ’82: When Zappa Came to Sicily is about a concert, but ultimately is a tale of family. You don’t have to be a fan to appreciate director Salvo Cuccia exploration of the night he didn’t get to see Zappa in his hometown.
Cuccia was a young kid in Palermo, Sicily (the island being kicked by the boot of Italy) when he got hooked on the music of Frank. While serving in the military and stationed in the north part of the country, he finds out that Frank’s not only touring, but coming to Palermo on his birthday. His father surprises him not only with tickets, but dad comes up and drives him back to get him to the show. Dad doesn’t care much for Zappa’s music, but he loves his son. At the same time, Cuccia gives us the perspective from Zappa’s side of the tour. Turns out Frank’s father is from a town near Palermo. This is a bit of a homecoming. Frank at this point of his career having so much video recorded so there’s plenty of fresh vintage footage from his tour and arrival in Sicily. His pal, partner in trouble, translator and tour guide Massimo Bassoli takes him back to the small hometown to search for other Zappas before the big show. Frank recounts his trip during the sound check on the stage in the soccer stadium.
Not to give away what happened during the show, but the police were having problems with the Mafia in the city so they weren’t in a good headspace for dealing with kids who wanted to move with the music. The show is fully documented with vintage video of disaster unfolding, memories of Massimo and Cuccia reuniting fans to testify what they experienced to enjoy rock and roll.
There is more to the film than just a concert since it is about family. Moon recounts how around the time of the concert, she had finally connected with her dad by getting into the studio to record “Valley Girl” with him. The small village and Sicily has Zappa’s family return decades later to celebrate Frank and finally find the Zappas that remained on the island. Eldest son Dweezil conducts the local kids into playing his father’s music. Widow Gail, Dweezil, Moon and youngest sister Diva discover the small space where Frank’s father departed for his journey to America. If Frank’s father had stayed home, we’d not have Don’t Eat Yellow Snow. It’s interesting to see Frank’s family relate to the other side that they never knew really existed. To observe family connections within themselves and distant relatives.
The big difference from when I originally saw the movie at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham and watching the Blu-ray at home is that things have changed in the Zappa family. Frank’s wife Gail has passed away and transferred control of the Trust controlling Frank’s music to her youngest children. Now there’s a very public fight between the siblings over money and permissions when Dweezil Zappa hits the road with his band to keep his father’s music alive and his fans united.
This goes beyond a concert film. Cuccia’s connections to Zappa don’t overwhelm the film, but add that authenticity so you know what making this film means so much to him. The journey with his father is as emotionally pulling as Massimo finally seeing himself perform a dirty song he co-created with Frank. You don’t have to be a fan to truly enjoy the stories on the screen. Frank Zappa – Summer ’82: When Zappa Came to Sicily is an emotionally powerful film that happens to have a concert at its core and layers family all around.
The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The transfer is fine as the image quality varies with the sources. Most of Frank’s footage of Italy was shot on standard definition video. The audio is 5.1 DTS-HD MA. Parts of the film is in Italian, but have English subtitles. Mostly this is when director Cuccia talks. The movie is subtitled in Italian.
Photo Gallery (12:56) are snapshots from Frank Zappa on tour and the family’s return to Sicily.
MVD Visual presents Frank Zappa – Summer ’82: When Zappa Came to Sicily. Directed by: Salvo Cuccia. Written by: Salvo Cuccia. Starring: Frank Zappa, Dweezil Zappa, Massimo Bassoli and Moon Zappa. Running time: 81 minutes. Rated: R. Blu-ray Release: December 15, 2017.
Joe Corey is the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.