Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Les Blank

Les Blank

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Les Blank'
Start a new discussion about 'Les Blank'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia

Les Blank is an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 documentary
Documentary film
Documentary films constitute a broad category of nonfictional motion pictures intended to document some aspect of reality, primarily for the purposes of instruction or maintaining a historical record...

 filmmaker best known for his portraits of American traditional musicians.

Blank attended Tulane University
Tulane University
Tulane University is a private, nonsectarian research university located in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States...

 in New Orleans, where he received a B.A. in English literature and an M.F.A. in theater. He had also studied communications at the University of Southern California
University of Southern California
The University of Southern California is a private, not-for-profit, nonsectarian, research university located in Los Angeles, California, United States. USC was founded in 1880, making it California's oldest private research university...

. Following his university education he founded his own production company, Flower Films, and most of his films since that time have been independently produced, often with the assistance of grants from cultural agencies, both governmental and non-governmental.

Most of his films focus on American traditional music forms including (among others) blues
Blues
Blues is the name given to both a musical form and a music genre that originated in African-American communities of primarily the "Deep South" of the United States at the end of the 19th century from spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads...

, Appalachian
Old-time music
Old-time music is a genre of North American folk music, with roots in the folk music of many countries, including England, Scotland, Ireland and countries in Africa. It developed along with various North American folk dances, such as square dance, buck dance, and clogging. The genre also...

, Cajun
Cajun
Cajuns are an ethnic group mainly living in the U.S. state of Louisiana, consisting of the descendants of Acadian exiles...

, Creole
Creole peoples
The term Creole and its cognates in other languages — such as crioulo, criollo, créole, kriolu, criol, kreyol, kreol, kriulo, kriol, krio, etc. — have been applied to people in different countries and epochs, with rather different meanings...

, Tex-Mex
Tejano music
Tejano music or Tex-Mex music is the name given to various forms of folk and popular music originating among the Mexican-American populations of Central and Southern Texas...

, polka
Polka
The polka is a Central European dance and also a genre of dance music familiar throughout Europe and the Americas. It originated in the middle of the 19th century in Bohemia...

, tamburitza
Tamburitza
Tamburica or Tamboura refers to any member of a family of long-necked lutes popular in Eastern and Southern Europe, particularly Croatia , Serbia and Hungary. It is also known in southern Slovenia and Burgenland...

, and Hawaiian
Music of Hawaii
The music of Hawaii includes an array of traditional and popular styles, ranging from native Hawaiian folk music to modern rock and hip hop. Hawaii's musical contributions to the music of the United States are out of proportion to the state's small size. Styles like slack-key guitar are well-known...

 musics. Many of these films represent the only filmed documents of musicians who are now deceased.

Blank's films focusing on musical subjects often spend much of their running time focusing not on the music itself but on the music's cultural context, portraying the surroundings from which these American roots musics come.

Other notable films on non-musical subjects include a film about garlic
Garlic
Allium sativum, commonly known as garlic, is a species in the onion genus, Allium. Its close relatives include the onion, shallot, leek, chive, and rakkyo. Dating back over 6,000 years, garlic is native to central Asia, and has long been a staple in the Mediterranean region, as well as a frequent...

 and another about gap-toothed women, as well as two films about German film director Werner Herzog
Werner Herzog
Werner Herzog Stipetić , known as Werner Herzog, is a German film director, producer, screenwriter, actor, and opera director.He is often considered as one of the greatest figures of the New German Cinema, along with Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Margarethe von Trotta, Volker Schlöndorff, Werner...

: Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe
Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe
Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe is a short documentary film directed by Les Blank in 1980 which depicts director Werner Herzog living up to his promise that he would eat his shoe if Errol Morris ever completed the film Gates of Heaven. The film includes clips from both Gates of Heaven and Herzog's...

(1980) and Burden of Dreams
Burden of Dreams
Burden of Dreams is a feature-length documentary and making-of directed by Les Blank, shot during and about the chaotic production of Werner Herzog's 1982 film Fitzcarraldo, filmed in the jungles of South America....

(1982), the latter about the filming of Herzog's Fitzcarraldo
Fitzcarraldo
Fitzcarraldo is a 1982 film written and directed by Werner Herzog and starring Klaus Kinski as the title character. It portrays would-be rubber baron Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald, an Irishman known as Fitzcarraldo in Peru, who has to pull a steamship over a steep hill in order to access a rich rubber...

. The Maestro; King of The Cowboy Artists (1995) and Sworn To The Drum (1995) were Blank's last two films using 16mm film. He now works in digital. His most recent film, All In This Tea
All in This Tea
All in This Tea is a 2007 documentary film co-directed by Les Blank and Gina Leibrecht, about Chinese tea. It follows the American tea connoisseur David Lee Hoffman as he travels to remote tea-growing areas of China...

, which was co-directed by Gina Leibrecht, is a profile of the western Marin County-based tea
Tea
Tea is an aromatic beverage prepared by adding cured leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant to hot water. The term also refers to the plant itself. After water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world...

 importer and adventurer David Lee Hoffman. In 2007 Blank was awarded the prestigious Edward MacDowell Medal in the Arts.

Les's son, Harrod Blank
Harrod Blank
Harrod Blank is an American documentary filmmaker and art car artist living in Berkeley, California. He is the son of Gail, a ceramic artist, and filmmaker Les Blank...

, has also become a documentary filmmaker.

Blank lives in Berkeley, California
Berkeley, California
Berkeley is a city on the east shore of the San Francisco Bay in Northern California, United States. Its neighbors to the south are the cities of Oakland and Emeryville. To the north is the city of Albany and the unincorporated community of Kensington...

. His company, Flower Films, is based in El Cerrito, Contra Costa County, California
El Cerrito, Contra Costa County, California
-Transportation:The city's primary transportation infrastructure consists of the El Cerrito Plaza and El Cerrito del Norte BART stations along with several local bus lines, operated by AC Transit, providing access to the surrounding area and the nearby cities of Albany, Berkeley and Richmond...

.

Filmography

  • 1960 - Running Around Like A Chicken With Its Head Cut Off
  • 1960–1985 - Six Short Films of Les Blank
  • 1961, 1962 - Strike! & And Freedom Came!?
  • 1965 - Dizzy Gillespie
  • 1967 - Christopher Tree
  • 1968 - God Respects Us When We Work, But Loves Us When We Dance
  • 1969 - The Arch
  • 1969 - The Sun's Gonna Shine
  • 1969 or 1970 - The Blues Accordin' to Lightnin' Hopkins
  • 1970 - Chicken Real
  • 1971 - Spend It All
  • 1971 - A Well Spent Life
  • 1973 - Dry Wood
  • 1973 - Hot Pepper
  • 1974 - A Poem Is A Naked Person
  • 1976 - Chulas Fronteras
    Chulas Fronteras
    Chulas Fronteras is a documentary film from 1976 which tells the story of the norteño or conjunto music which is played on both sides of the Mexico-Texas border. It was directed by Les Blank...

  • 1978 - Always for Pleasure
    Always for Pleasure
    Always for Pleasure is a 1978 documentary film by Les Blank about social traditions in New Orleans, Louisiana.The film has footage of musical events, Mardi Gras Indians, a funeral with traditional music , various second line parades, and cooking and eating red beans & rice and a crawfish...

  • 1979 - Del Mero Corazon
  • 1979 or 1980 - Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe
    Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe
    Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe is a short documentary film directed by Les Blank in 1980 which depicts director Werner Herzog living up to his promise that he would eat his shoe if Errol Morris ever completed the film Gates of Heaven. The film includes clips from both Gates of Heaven and Herzog's...

  • 1980 - Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers
    Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers
    Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers is a documentary film about garlic directed by Les Blank. In 2004, the film was selected for preservation in the United States’ National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”It was filmed at the...

  • 1982 - Burden of Dreams
    Burden of Dreams
    Burden of Dreams is a feature-length documentary and making-of directed by Les Blank, shot during and about the chaotic production of Werner Herzog's 1982 film Fitzcarraldo, filmed in the jungles of South America....

  • 1983 - Sprout Wings and Fly
  • 1984 - In Heaven There Is No Beer?
  • 1985 - Cigarette Blues
  • 1985 - Sworn to the Drum: A Tribute to Francisco Aguabella
  • 1986 - Huey Lewis And The News: Be-Fore!
  • 1987 - Gap-Toothed Women
  • 1987 - Ziveli! Medicine for the Heart
  • 1988 - A Blank Buffet
  • 1988 - Ry Cooder And The Moula Banda Rhythm Aces
  • 1989 - The Best of Blank
  • 1989 - J'ai Été Au Bal / I Went to the Dance
  • 1990 - Yum, Yum, Yum! A Taste of Cajun and Creole Cooking
  • 1991 - Innocents Abroad
  • 1991 - Julie: Old Time Tales of the Blue Ridge
  • 1991 - Marc & Ann
  • 1991 - Puamana
  • 1994 - The Maestro: King of the Cowboy Artists
  • 1994 - My Old Fiddle: A Visit with Tommy Jarrell in the Blue Ridge
  • 1994 - Roots of Rhythm
  • 2007 - All In This Tea
    All in This Tea
    All in This Tea is a 2007 documentary film co-directed by Les Blank and Gina Leibrecht, about Chinese tea. It follows the American tea connoisseur David Lee Hoffman as he travels to remote tea-growing areas of China...

    (co-directed with Gina Leibrecht)

External links