Documentaries by Les Blank

Documentaries by Les Blank

16 Episodes

From garlic to gap-toothed women, no subject was too esoteric to capture the imagination of Les Blank, an uncompromisingly independent spirit who, for nearly fifty years, disappeared with his camera into subcultures rarely seen on-screen. Seemingly off-the-cuff yet poetically constructed, Blank’s films are humane, sometimes wry, always engaging tributes to music, food, and all sorts of regionally specific delights. Whether documenting the art of a legendary Texas bluesman (THE BLUES ACCORDIN’ TO LIGHTNIN’ HOPKINS), the richness of Cajun culture (SPEND IT ALL), or the quixotic exploits of his friend Werner Herzog (BURDEN OF DREAMS), Blank had a boundless zest for life and people that shines through every frame of his affectionate, joy-filled work.

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Documentaries by Les Blank
  • God Respects Us When We Work, but Loves Us When We Dance

    Episode 1

    Directed by Les Blank • 1968 • United States

    Hippies and flower children dance and create rituals at the historic Los Angeles “Love-In” of Easter Sunday, 1967.

  • The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins

    Episode 2

    Directed by Les Blank • 1968 • United States

    Les Blank creates a vivid portrait of bluesman Lightin’ Hopkins through a vital collection of musical performances and oral histories.

  • Spend It All

    Episode 3

    Directed by Les Blank • 1971 • United States

    Ethnographer of the offbeat and hyper-regional Les Blank offers a rich, fragrant look at the vitality of the Cajun lifestyle, paying special attention to the food, music (including legendary figures like the Balfa Brothers, Marc Savoy, and Nathan Absh...

  • A Well Spent Life

    Episode 4

    Directed by Les Blank • 1971 • United States

    A deeply moving tribute to the Texas songster, Mance Lipscomb, considered by many to be the greatest guitarist of all time.

  • Dry Wood

    Episode 5

    Directed by Les Blank • 1973 • United States

    A portrait of black Creole life in the Louisiana Delta.

  • Hot Pepper

    Episode 6

    Directed by Les Blank • 1973 • United States

    A companion piece to DRY WOOD that was filmed simultaneously, this is an energetic portrait of the Grammy-winning Creole musician Clifton Chenier, a.k.a. the King of Zydeco. HOT PEPPER brings viewers into the Louisiana juke joints where Chenier plays ...

  • A Poem Is a Naked Person

    Episode 7

    Directed by Les Blank • 1974 • United States

    Les Blank considered this free-form feature documentary about beloved singer-songwriter Leon Russell, filmed between 1972 and 1974, to be one of his greatest accomplishments. Yet it has not been released until now. Hired by Russell to film him at his ...

  • Always for Pleasure

    Episode 8

    Directed by Les Blank • 1978 • United States

    his 1978 documentary is Les Blank’s celebration of the spirit and social traditions of New Orleans, featuring Mardi Gras and St. Patrick’s Day celebrations as well as musical performances by Allen Toussaint, Kid Thomas Valentine, Professor Longhair, a...

  • Garlic Is as Good as Ten Mothers

    Episode 9

    Directed by Les Blank • 1980 • United States

    In this love letter to “the stinking rose,” documentarian Les Blank interviews garlic fanatics of all stripes, from cooks to members of garlic appreciation societies.

  • Burden of Dreams

    Episode 10

    Directed by Les Blank • 1982 • United States

    For nearly five years, acclaimed German filmmaker Werner Herzog desperately tried to complete one of the most ambitious and difficult films of his career, FITZCARRALDO, the story of one man’s attempt to build an opera house deep in the Amazon jungle. ...

  • Sprout Wings and Fly

    Episode 11

    Directed by Les Blank • 1983 • United States

    Fiddling legend Tommy Jarrell shares his gifts with a new generation.

  • In Heaven There Is No Beer?

    Episode 12

    Directed by Les Blank • 1984 • United States

    The life, culture and food of the polka culture in America today.

  • Gap-Toothed Women

    Episode 13

    Directed by Les Blank • 1987 • United States

    Filmmaker Les Blank breezily questions our commonly accepted standards of beauty with this paean to women with extra-wide dental spaces.

  • Yum, Yum, Yum! A Taste of Cajun and Creole Cooking

    Episode 14

    Directed by Les Blank • 1990 • United States

    Exploration of cajun cooking and culture.

  • The Maestro: King of the Cowboy Artists

    Episode 15

    Directed by Les Blank • 1994 • United States

    This documentary from Les Blank follows the indomitable Gerald ‘The Maestro’ Gaxiola, who turned to a life of prolific art making after years as an aircraft mechanic, traveling salesman, and body builder. While, in Gaxiola’s words, ‘art is a religion,...

  • Sworn to the Drum: A Tribute to Francisco Aguabella

    Episode 16

    Directed by Les Blank • 1995 • United States

    The impassioned rhythms of Francisco Aguabella’s conga propel this portrait of the great Afro-Cuban percussionist.