Les Blank
April 8, 2013 6:49 PM   Subscribe

Beloved indy ethnographic documentarian Les Blank died yesterday. This interview gives a good overview of his background, and this post includes clips. Watch a couple of his public domain films here. Or do yourself a favor and find the complete version of Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers.

His films and life were woven within a community of filmmakers who were enormously influential.

One whimsical piece famously portrayed his colleague Werner Herzog eating his shoe on the occasion of their mutual acquaintance Errol Morris' making of his first film, Gates of Heaven. Burden of Dreams shows Herzog in full craziness making Fitzcarraldo .

Also check out long time collaborator Maureen Gosling, and Les' son Harrod Blank: art car enthusiast and fellow documentary filmmaker.
posted by latkes (19 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

I knew Les Blank. He was incredibly creative; spoke and filmed from the heart. It's rare to find someone who can stay close to one's own vernacular artistic passion, without compromise. That was Les Blank.
posted by Vibrissae at 7:00 PM on April 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

Anyone who hasn't must see Burden of Dreams right this instant.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 7:30 PM on April 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

Blank was a wonder and a joy. Usually gentleness is no virtue in filmmaking, but his docs have a warmth and undemanding intimacy that's really the best of the south. One of his more obscure delights is "Chicken Real"– hired to make a promotional film for a rural chicken company, he created a marvelously askew, gently ironic, subtly insightful... thing. Also his student film, "Running Around Like A Chicken With Its Head Cut Off" is a delight.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:34 PM on April 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Always for Pleasure, baby. Always for Pleasure.
posted by Token Meme at 7:46 PM on April 8, 2013

Great guy--I worked for him. Best gig of my life.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:47 PM on April 8, 2013

That was a great interview
posted by thelonius at 8:03 PM on April 8, 2013

posted by oulipian at 8:06 PM on April 8, 2013

posted by jann at 8:07 PM on April 8, 2013

. A loss.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:18 PM on April 8, 2013

posted by cosmac at 9:31 PM on April 8, 2013

He was a great film maker and human being.
posted by dougzilla at 9:59 PM on April 8, 2013

I didn't know Les Blank, but I knew his films and I will miss him. My favorite scene in all of film is from Burden of Dreams.
posted by BoatMeme at 11:44 PM on April 8, 2013

One of my film profs worked for Les Blank on Burden of Dreams and spoke of the experience often and fondly (which is really something when you watch the film and see what a fraught experience the production of Fitzcarraldo was on so many levels.)

posted by usonian at 4:18 AM on April 9, 2013

When I watched Garlic is As Good as Ten Mothers it was so good I could swear I smelled garlic...it turned out Les Blank was in the back of the theater roasting garlic cloves which he handed out later. (In the Ogden, on Colfax, in Denver.)
posted by kozad at 8:20 AM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Ah, that's too bad.
posted by OmieWise at 8:28 AM on April 9, 2013

posted by klausness at 12:17 PM on April 9, 2013

I programmed a series of Les Blank films at the Wisconsin Film Festival in 2001. He came to the festival, and I was his "handler," which basically meant my friend Julia (a documentarian who adores Blank's work) and I hung out with him on State Street, eating Nepalese food. He was a nice guy with lots of great stories. He was also a brilliant filmmaker. I had the pleasure of seeing his rare film A Poem Is a Naked Person, about Blank's drugged-up days on Leon Russell's Oklahoma swamp ranch. Insane shit, but so very warm and human. Russell's estate wouldn't permit the film to be advertised, so we had to put in the program that we'd be showing "a rare Les Blank film," and a certain hard core of fans stuck around for it. Great screening.

I wanted to take him to Michael's Frozen Custard in Madison, so I asked if he had a sweet tooth. "No," he replied, "but I have a beer tooth." So I bought another round.

He was a grand person and a terrific filmmaker. I am sad that he is gone.
posted by Dr. Wu at 2:07 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

posted by c10h12n2 at 7:22 AM on April 10, 2013

posted by maudlin at 7:14 PM on April 17, 2013

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