Les Blank Tribute

Jun 22, 2013

New 16mm prints!

Pre-screening happy hour at 5pm!

"I only knew the man was a very very good filmmaker" says Werner Herzog when speaking of Les Blank, whose five-decade career came to close earlier this year, when this forever curious filmmaker died of cancer. During the course of his fifty years Blank made forty-two films, his subjects ranging from Herzog himself (in 1979 Blank filmed the director eating his shoe, and in 1981, in Burden of Dreams, he documented the production of Herzog’s epic Fitzcarraldo in the South American jungle), to the North Carolina fiddler Tommy Jarrell, to Jarrell’s sister.

Blank’s oeuvre, which focuses largely on American folklife, can seem both random and purposeful; his passion was guided by curiosity. Much of the power and charm of his short documentaries derive from their homespun attributes. Rarely do they feel like movies in the traditional sense; they unfold at a leisurely pace, personal but never investigative, barely interested in conventional narrative. They have less in common with the advances in documentary form (although they share common methods) practiced by the practitioners of direct cinema and cinéma vérité, and more with the work the Lomax’s were doing in the previous decades for the Library of Congress.

Blank’s films are personal affairs, filled with love for his subjects. They capture the beauty of what at first might seem mundane or  unworthy of attention: the mechanics of daily life, the common work shared by the community.  In this program, we are excited to present rarely-seen works from Blank’s early filmmaking years, including three films dealing with Blank's fondest subjects: music, food and people.

For the first time in Seattle, we screen the restored print of Spend it All (1972), a documentary quintessentially representative of Blank's approach. The film celebrates the vitality of the Cajun lifestyle, paying special attention to the food, music and humor of the culture. Additionally, we will have Northwest premieres/restorations of the rarely-seen films Chicken Real (1970, 23 min) and Christopher Tree (aka Spontaneous Sound, 1972, 10 min). All films restored by the Academy Film Archive.

>> This film is part of our new documentary series N-E-X D-O-C-S: you can buy a series pass and see all of the films in N-E-X D-O-C-S at a discount! $35/Film Forum Members, $55/General

>> Join us before the screening, at 5pm for a special happy hour at our lobby bar, with members of SeaDoc in attendance.

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