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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Summer '82: When Zappa Came to Sicily (Blu-ray)
Summer '82: When Zappa Came to Sicily (Blu-ray)
MVD Entertainment Group // Unrated // December 21, 2017 // Region A
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ryan Keefer | posted February 1, 2018 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

I'm a casual fan of Frank Zappa's, and for whatever reason I was coming into the Summer of ‘82 thinking it had something to do with his orchestral collaborations in London. Nope, this was an equally eventful yet unrelated component of Zappa's tour which resulted in clashes with police and tear gas.

The second half of the title of the film is When Zappa Came to Italy, a look at the end of Zappa's 1982 European tour, which concluded with a riot in Palermo, Italy between police and concertgoers. The events from the last Italian dates are shown on the artwork on Zappa's album "The Man From Utopia" and are also shown in this documentary, which includes ample participation from Zappa's family including his wife Gail and children Dweezil and Moon Unit, along with interviews with Zappa band members and some fans from the fateful Palermo show.

The film navigates two different circles adequately; the Palermo show includes lots of film of the band as they prepare for the performance (one scene in the midst of the chaos shows a stagehand wiping a band member's face off of the accumulated tear gas), and includes interviews with some of the members at the time, including noted guitarist Steve Vai. What made the show difficult was that Zappa and the band could never see anything going on in the crowd, and were going from tidbits related to him by roadies. But more than the show itself, the European tour and particularly the Italy leg of it gave Zappa a chance to visit his ancestry as his grandfather took the children from Sicily to America, where Zappa was born in Maryland at the dawn of World War II in an Italian-speaking household. The effort is made to explain this and his fascination for it and his music by the family.

The family returned to Sicily to meet the townspeople, visit a school and Dweezil did some performances in town and the people warmly received them, which ran counter to the hostility Frank received when he arrived in 1982 (concertgoers were not fond of the music, and at one point backstage Frank is shown how to wear a bulletproof vest), so in seeing this closure is an emotional moment for Gail and the family.

On a human level, seeing the Zappa family receive the adoration of their ancestors which their patriarch didn't receive is a charming subplot, though it's hard to tell whether the Italian shows are contrasted here to show that or if it's supposed to chronicle the events behind the chaos. It's a nice enough documentary, but I think it's best served by deeper Zappa enthusiasts.

The Blu-ray Disc:
The Video:

Summer of ‘82 is presented in 1.78:1 for the modern footage, and in 4:3 for the other sources like the concert footage. There is some black and white widescreen film here too though tough to tell whether it's newly shot or vintage. Nevertheless, the interviews and recent Zappa visits to Italy look natural and have a vivid palette, while the video footage is included flaws and all with tracking and noise in the image, washed out colors and the like. Not knowing what to expect coming in, it's an average transfer.

The Sound:

DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless surround, with the overall results matching the level of the video. The music sounds clean and has a minimal amount of dynamic range, but whatever advantage is taken of all of the channels is geared towards the newer footage when the Zappa family went to Italy and the music performed therein. Solid but unspectacular listening material.

Extras:

Some stills with a choice of Italian subtitles or not, and that's it.

Final Thoughts:

Summer '82: When Zappa Comes to Sicily tells the story of a family attempting to close an open loop in the life of their departed husband and father. At times emotional, it could have been told in a less clunky way, but the notes are reached when they need to. Technically it does enough work, and the sole inclusion of a stills gallery makes this a little bit of a throwaway release. Given in better DVD producer hands this could have been a very good release, but is a decent one as is.

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