200 Motels (1971)

200 Motels (1971)

“Touring makes you crazy.”

Frank Zappa channels the experiences of his band, The Mothers of Invention, as they tour the country, experiment with drugs, and do anything they can to get both laid and paid.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Musicians
  • Ringo Starr Films
  • Rock ‘n Roll

Response to Peary’s Review:
While this psychedelic film — “meant to be a visualization of a Mothers tour seen through the eyes of someone (presumably Zappa) who has gone crazy from being on tour with the Mothers” — should be lauded for its no-holds-barred experimental approach (Tony Palmer’s “wild and weird” visuals… make Ken Russell seem conservative”), it’s “never as witty as one would like… and it becomes tiresome”. Peary laments the irreverent lyrics and “occasionally imaginative but mostly annoying” visuals:

… and ultimately argues that it “should have been erased” rather than transferred from its original video format to film. 200 Motels is undoubtedly included as a “must see” in his book due to its cult status, but it’s not essential viewing for all film fanatics.

Redeeming Qualities:

  • Ringo Starr as Zappa’s avatar

Must See?
No; despite its popularity as a cult film, this one is really only must-see viewing for true Zappa fans.


One thought on “200 Motels (1971)

  1. Not a must. Whatever following it may have, it’s best forgotten altogether.

    And this comes from someone who was kind-of a Zappa fan. (He certainly composed better work than what’s here.)

    This is a film that is SO of its time that it screams ‘dated’; almost to-the-minute. There was a moment in time when (esp.) midnight films had to be this ‘out there’ to speak to those experimenting with…well, whatever combination of things we were experimenting with at the time.

    But looking at the film now is, more or less, like watching an exercise in desperation. It fails to accent what was most clever about Zappa’s work. What we get is what might have been best left in Zappa’s trunk. In perhaps what is the catchiest number overall, we get the following lyrics:

    “What will I say the next day to whatever (“whatever”?)
    I drag (“drag”?)
    to my hotel tonight…”

    This may, of course, be meant as commentary on the tour scene. Still, on its own, it’s pathetic.

    We also get a lot of penis-centric material. Maybe funny to a slight degree. But here it’s little more than tiresome.

    I actually like the concept of this film. But, the execution is (oddly, considering the emphasis on the penis) limp.

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