Film #230: 200 MOTELS
2.75 out of 5 stars
Another rewatch! Let me say this at the outset - I am a HUGE Frank Zappa fan. I think he was, at times, a certified genius. That said… there are certain periods of which I’m less than a fan. For example, the very early stuff, as well as the Varese-inspired noise collisions, etc. Very early on, Zappa saw the potential of the music video long before anyone. An example of that is… 200 MOTELS (another is BABY SNAKES). I remember when it first came out, many of the people I knew referred to it in reverential tones. I saw it at a theater and was, quite frankly, kind of confused by it. I saw it again later, about a decade later, and not much had improved. So, sitting down to watch it again now, I was expecting some revelation now that I’m older. Ummm, no. Narratively, the film is a mess. Huge collisions of imagery which never add up too much. The music is at its best when it exhibits “song song” and not the soundtracky weirdness that I guess Zappa felt obligated to include. I will say though… that Zappa understood the effectiveness of the whole “MTV quick cutting” technique a full decade before there was ever such a thing as MTV. MOTELS is littered with it. In the end, for all of its moments of brilliance (and there are more than a few), the film is a ridiculous bit of nose-thumbing at cinema and at the conventions of the time. It’s a little slice of “hippie cake” for modern audiences to look back on and marvel at what we once found “cutting edge.” Interesting mostly as an anthropological item than as true cinema. Fun, but flawed.