Frank Zappa

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Jon Pareles

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Unlike 200 Motels, Zappa's first film, Baby Snakes doesn't pretend to have a plot, and it is edited percussively, for maximum disorientation.

For die-hard Zappa fans, there are a few illuminating sequences. It's fascinating to watch Zappa conducting at close range; his band translates his hand motions into sound with telepathic precision. But those scenes are separated by tedious stretches of Zappa's cold-eyed, unfunny "comedy," which seems to be aimed primarily at socially retarded twelve-year-old boys. His staples are dirty-word jokes, outdated rock satires and disturbing antigay slurs….

The concert footage is competently shot, but [Bruce] Bickford's animation is the movie's visual salvation….

Unfortunately, Baby Snakes is all too analogous to Zappa's current music. For each glimpse of technical skill, each intriguing idea, you have to slog through endless, repetitious vamps. There's just enough interesting material here for a coming-attractions teaser.

Jon Pareles, "Frank Zappa's 'Baby Snakes'," in Rolling Stone (by Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. © 1980; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), Issue 311, February 21, 1980, p. 14.

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