A Poem Is a Naked Person
Directed by Les Blank
Opens July 1 at Film Forum
“I seem to gravitate to those things which I felt were beautiful and valuable that I guess a lot of people took for granted because it was all around them. The songs, the way people interrelate with one another, the sincerity of feeling, and people being true to themselves and not being hypocritical… In a family, the feeling of love among various family members. I wanted to document it, record it, in case it changes in the future.”
That was Les Blank in an interview with me a few years ago, on the occasion of a Museum of Modern Art retrospective of his work. And that was Les Blank’s films, celebrations of life in sound and image which—he said in the same conversation while eating squid—became a whole new medium when combined. But that didn’t happen with just anyone shooting, and upon the death of Blank in 2013, film lost another invigorating, original voice, comparable to two other virtuoso cameramen of the moment, Ricky Leacock (who’d passed two years earlier) and the late Albert Maysles. If Leacock and Maysles were better known for photographing better-known performers, Blank was drawn to food, music, and people that maybe didn’t have a high profile, and to fellow feeling wherever he found it.