Frank Zappa occupies an extremely unique position in the history of music, known for his iconoclastic views of the world as well as the translation of that irresistible spirit into his artistic endeavours. Raised on a diet which contained equal parts of Stravinsky and Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson, Zappa’s diverse background contributed to his unrelenting dedication to raging against all kinds of normative forces in various spheres of life.
Along with his incredibly vast knowledge of various musical traditions, Zappa was also interested in sociopolitical theory as well as the occult. In fact, he had conducted extensive research about Aleister Crowley and his writings and included many of Crowley’s works in his personal collection of books on the subject of occult spiritualism.
The pioneering icon had also tried his hand at filmmaking, making several fascinating projects such as 200 Motels and Baby Snakes. In addition, he had also written a screenplay for a film which had been in development for years according to Zappa. He had even sent it to multiple filmmakers, including another artistic pioneer Terry Gilliam.
In an interview, Zappa was asked whether he had seen any of Gilliam’s works and the musician replied without hesitation that his favourite film was Gilliam’s 1985 magnum opus Brazil. He claimed that he was also a fan of the Monty Python sketches and had this to say about Gilliam: “He’s so funny it’s hard to imagine he’s an American.”
It makes sense that Brazil was Zappa’s top pick because it is truly a masterclass in surreal filmmaking, chronicling the bleak state of existence in a dystopian society whose Kafkaesque labyrinths invoke a sense of overwhelming claustrophobia. Initially regarded as a failure, Brazil is now regularly cited as one of the greatest British films ever made.