Les Blank


Documentarian, Producer
Les Blank

About

Birth Place
Tampa, Florida, USA
Born
November 27, 1935

Biography

Highly acclaimed, maverick auteur of off-beat documentaries ranging from "Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers" (1980, a cultural-folk history of the magic herb), to "In Heaven There Is no Beer?" (1984, on Polish polka dancing), to "Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe" (1980, the result of the eponymous German director's losing a bet with his former assistant, Errol Morris). Blank's best known work ...

Family & Companions

Gail Blank
Wife
Erotic ceramics maker. Divorced c. 1971; born c. 1941.

Biography

Highly acclaimed, maverick auteur of off-beat documentaries ranging from "Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers" (1980, a cultural-folk history of the magic herb), to "In Heaven There Is no Beer?" (1984, on Polish polka dancing), to "Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe" (1980, the result of the eponymous German director's losing a bet with his former assistant, Errol Morris).

Blank's best known work is the feature-length "Burden of Dreams" (1982), an extraordinary account of the production of Herzog's "Fitzcarraldo" (1982). His career has been the subject of major retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1979), the National Film Theatre in London (1982) and the Cinematheque Francaise in Paris (1986). In 1990 the American Film Institute honored Blank with the Maya Deren award for outstanding lifetime achievement by an independent filmmaker.

Combining obsessions with music and food, Blank gives his movies a taste and feel that few commercial filmmakers can match. He's not above cooking up a mess of red beans and rice behind the screen to enhance the experience. He reminds us that movies can be used to celebrate life.

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

All in This Tea (2008)
Director
The Maestro: King of the Cowboy Artists (1995)
Director
Two Films by Les Blank (1995)
Director
Sworn to the Drum: A Tribute to Francisco Aguabella (1995)
Director
Innocents Abroad (1992)
Director
Marc and Ann (1991)
Director
Julie: Old Time Tales of the Blue Ridge (1991)
Director
Yum, Yum, Yum! A Taste of Cajun & Creole Cooking (1990)
Director
J'ai ete au bal (1989)
Director
Ziveli: Medicine for the Heart (1987)
Director
Gap-Toothed Women (1987)
Director
In Heaven There Is No Beer? (1984)
Director
Sprout Wings and Fly (1983)
Director
Burden of Dreams (1982)
Director
Garlic Is as Good as Ten Mothers (1980)
Director
Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe (1980)
Director
Chicken Real (1980)
Director
Del Mero Corazon (1979)
Director
Always for Pleasure (1978)
Director
A Poem Is a Naked Person (1977)
Director
Chulas Fronteras (1976)
Director
Dry Wood (1973)
Director
Hot Pepper (1973)
Director
Spend It All (1972)
Director
A Well Spent Life (1971)
Director
God Respects Us When We Work But Loves Us When We Dance (1968)
Director
Dizzy Gillespie (1965)
Director

Cast (Feature Film)

Oh My God, It's Harrod Blank (2009)

Cinematography (Feature Film)

All in This Tea (2008)
Cinematographer
Little Dieter Needs to Fly (1997)
Cinematographer
A Hole in the Soul (1995)
Camera
The Maestro: King of the Cowboy Artists (1995)
Cinematographer
Sworn to the Drum: A Tribute to Francisco Aguabella (1995)
Cinematographer
Wild Wheels (1992)
Cinematographer
Innocents Abroad (1992)
Cinematographer
Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (1991)
Camera Operator
J'ai ete au bal (1989)
Cinematographer
Gap-Toothed Women (1987)
Cinematographer
In Heaven There Is No Beer? (1984)
Cinematographer
Sprout Wings and Fly (1983)
Cinematographer
Burden of Dreams (1982)
Director Of Photography
Poto and Cabengo (1980)
Director Of Photography
Garlic Is as Good as Ten Mothers (1980)
Cinematographer
Stoney Knows How (1980)
Director Of Photography
Always for Pleasure (1978)
Cinematographer
A Poem Is a Naked Person (1977)
Cinematographer
Spend It All (1972)
Cinematographer

Writer (Feature Film)

J'ai ete au bal (1989)
Screenwriter
A Poem Is a Naked Person (1977)
Screenplay

Producer (Feature Film)

All in This Tea (2008)
Producer
The Maestro: King of the Cowboy Artists (1995)
Producer
Sworn to the Drum: A Tribute to Francisco Aguabella (1995)
Producer
Yum, Yum, Yum! A Taste of Cajun & Creole Cooking (1990)
Producer
J'ai ete au bal (1989)
Producer
In the Land of the Owl Turds (1987)
Producer
Gap-Toothed Women (1987)
Producer
In Heaven There Is No Beer? (1984)
Producer
Turumba (1983)
Producer
Burden of Dreams (1982)
Producer
Garlic Is as Good as Ten Mothers (1980)
Producer
Del Mero Corazon (1979)
Producer
Always for Pleasure (1978)
Producer
Dry Wood (1973)
Producer
Hot Pepper (1973)
Producer
Spend It All (1972)
Producer
A Well Spent Life (1971)
Producer
God Respects Us When We Work But Loves Us When We Dance (1968)
Producer
Dizzy Gillespie (1965)
Producer

Editing (Feature Film)

Always for Pleasure (1978)
Editor
A Poem Is a Naked Person (1977)
Editor
Spend It All (1972)
Editor

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Wild Wheels (1992)
Other
Burden of Dreams (1982)
Other
Chicken Real (1980)
Other
Stoney Knows How (1980)
Dp/Cinematographer
Del Mero Corazon (1979)
Other
Chulas Fronteras (1976)
Other
Dry Wood (1973)
Other
Hot Pepper (1973)
Other
Spend It All (1972)
Other
A Well Spent Life (1971)
Other

Director (Special)

Routes of Rhythm With Harry Belafonte (1990)
Segment Director

Producer (Special)

Be-Fore! (1986)
Producer

Misc. Crew (Special)

The 66th Annual Academy Awards Presentation (1994)
Archival Footage

Director (Short)

Running Around Like a Chicken with Its Head Cut Off (1960)
Director

Life Events

1962

Made industrials for Holly Farms Poultry, Archway Cookies, National Wildlife Federation, educational films and TV films

1964

Made first film, "Dizzy Gillespie" (for TV)

1967

First independently produced film, "God Respects Us When We Work but Loves Us When We Dance" (20 mins; on first Los Angeles "love-in")

1967

Founded Flower Films

1974

First feature-length film, "A Poem is a Naked Person" (72 mins; unreleased; on country-rock performer Leon Russell)

1976

Received Guggenheim Fellowship

1979

Subject of retrospective at Museum of Modern Art, New York

1982

Subject of retrospective at National Film Theatre, London

1984

Subject of retrospective at Cineteca Nacional, Mexico City

1984

Louis B Mayer filmmaker-in-residence, Dartmouth; directing fellow, Sundance Institute

1986

Subject of retrospective at Cinematheque-Francaise, Paris

1990

Subject of retrospective at Independent Film Week, Augsberg, West Germany

1991

Began teaching film at University of California, Berkeley

Videos

Movie Clip

Burden Of Dreams (1982) - One Of The Leading Characters After another delay of months, director Les Blank's documentary on the shooting of director Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo resumes with the introduction of the fiery Klaus Kinski taking over the lead role, and the procurement of the boat to be carried over a Peruvian mountain, in Burden Of Dreams, 1982.
Burden Of Dreams (1982) - The Story Of Fitzcarraldo After lengthy jungle and river aerial shots under the credits, Werner Herzog, director of the ambitious historical adventure Fitzcarraldo, describes the origins of his project, in director Les Blank’s documentary Burden Of Dreams, 1982.
Burden Of Dreams (1982) - We Want The Opera burdenofdreams82_wewanttheopera_FC
Always For Pleasure (1978) - Open, Sea Cruise Les Blank’s New Orleans music documentary begins with local star Huey “Piano” Smith’s song, but the version with Huey’s vocal replaced by Frankie Ford, who came from across the river in Gretna, MS, which was the national hit, in Always For Pleasure, 1978.
Always For Pleasure (1978) - That's How You Lay The Dead Away Documentary maker Les Blank, who never discouraged people from mugging for his camera, joins the later stages of a New Orleans jazz funeral, with comments from Allen Toussaint and singer Blu Lu Barker, in Always For Pleasure, 1978.
Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers (1980) - Foundations Of Civilization First a Spanish garlic aficionado and Flamenco singer, then documentarian Les Blank finds experts and commentators participating in a 1977 garlic festival in California, in the feature Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers, 1980.
Hot Pepper (1973) - Filmed In Lafayette, Louisiana The opening of Les Blank’s highly-regarded Hot Pepper, 1973, which documented his experience with Clifton Chenier and the family of the legendary Zydeco musician.
Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers (1980) - Medical Science Will Tell You The opening of Les Blank’s single-vegetable documentary, beginning with Bay Area garlic users, in Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mother, 1980.

Family

Harrod Blank
Son
Filmmaker. Born c. 1965; directed the documentary "Wild Wheels".

Companions

Gail Blank
Wife
Erotic ceramics maker. Divorced c. 1971; born c. 1941.

Bibliography