• The great American documentarian Les Blank died yesterday at age seventy-seven. A crafter of intimate, idiosyncratic nonfiction films, Blank made movies for almost fifty years; his topics included traditional American music, food, and, of course, Werner Herzog. His 1982 Burden of Dreams, an artful, meditative feature-length look behind the scenes of Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo is perhaps his most famous film. The following is an appreciation from Herzog, recorded in 2005, of his friend and fellow filmmaker, in which he talks about Blank’s unusual working methods and laconic nature.

    Photo by Maureen Gosling

6 comments

  • By Steve Wasserman
    April 08, 2013
    06:09 PM

    The death yesterday of Les Blank brought back many memories. I remember him well from Berkeley in the mid-'70s: a man of few words with the visage of a mountain prophet, his quiet mien masked one felt a volcanic emotional interior. He was on a quest for the Noble Savage. He was obsessed with authenticity of identity and monomaniacal pursuits and his anthropological films from Lightning Hopkins to Werner Herzog, from the seductions of garlic to his gap-toothed beauties, were all of a piece. He was the inheritor of Alan Lomax and Chris Strachwitz. He had a strange charisma and gathered to his side a bevy of lovely women who matched in passion his more taciturn nature. A gentle giant, he will be missed, but his more than 40 films shot over 50 years remain a gift to us all.
    Reply
  • By ds
    April 09, 2013
    06:23 AM

    Terribly sad news. Thanks for the movies, Les.
    Reply
    • By Craig J. Clark
      April 09, 2013
      10:51 AM

      It's a shame so few of them are readily available. Perhaps that can be Criterion's next project.
    • By Aaron
      April 10, 2013
      07:06 PM

      Actually, most of them are available at his website, lesblank.com
  • By MMBenson
    July 13, 2013
    05:57 PM

    Has Criterion ever considered an Eclipse set of Les Blank's other documentaries? I watched Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers and it was great. But otherwise it is difficult to find his work.
    Reply
  • By Giulio Draghi
    August 16, 2013
    10:07 PM

    I am not a moviemaker or a director. Just a pianist with a tremendous sensibility for books and movies. They are my food. I am proud to have Les Blank Burden of Dreams in my shelf. It is tremendously impressive for me. His story telling of the making of Fitzcarraldo is an epic like the Ring of the Niebelungen by Richard Wagner. Pity I never met the man...but perhaps it is just vanity from my part. His movie will last foreever and he is in my house all the time...
    Reply