Les Blank


I got to meet Les Blank at a documentary film festival here in Detroit.  It was in  late October and early November of 2008.  They showed quite a few of his films.

He’s well known for Burden of Dreams, a film chronicling Werner Herzog’s filming of Fitzcarraldo.  He also made a short film Werner Herzog Eats his Shoe.  This act was the result of a bet Herzog lost with director Errol Morris.

Among other films, they showed “Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers.”  This was accompanied by a sort of “odorama” where you could smell the garlic roasting.  You could taste it too.  They soon served cloves of roasted garlic to the audience.  This program was at the famous Detroit Film Theatre at the Detroit Institute of Arts.  He was there in person for a talk, a question and answer session.

Afterward, I bought a dvd of his 1978 Mardi Gras documentary Always For Pleasure.  He signed it for me.

A few days later, there was a second program of Blank’s work at 1515 Broadway in downtown Detroit.  They showed his recent feature film All In This Tea.  It focused on the tea expert David Lee Hoffman and his searches for unique and high-quality teas.

They also ran six short films including film portraits of Dizzy Gillespie and bluesman Lightnin’ Hopkins.  There was Chicken Real, an odd 1970 look at a large chicken farm.  Then there was God Respects Us When We Work, But Loves Us When We Dance.  This captured parts of a Spring 1967 L.A. “Love-In.”  It’s a unique time capsule of the “hippie spirit” and the “flower children.”

His work often deals with music or food, yet he’s covered other subjects.  These include tourism, Creoles and “gap-toothed women.”

Besides the films he directed, he edited a film on musician Harry Partch and did camera work on Easy Rider.

I’ve always loved Blank’s work but it often seemed hard to find.  This made it more of a treat when I did find it.  I love his whole vision, very free and positive with great, oddball utopian edges.  Viva Les Blank!




Update:  It took me two months to learn that Les Blank had died.  I just saw his son Harrod’s film Wild Wheels. Ah, it’s very sad.  I’ll do another post on him eventually.  Here are some obituaries and tributes.






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