Tonight, around dinnertime, Shotgun Cinema in New Orleans will serve up the program Food to Mouth, featuring two short documentaries by Les Blank, Gap-Toothed Women (1987) followed by Garlic Is as Good as Ten Mothers (1980), both of them screening in 16 mm. Over the course of a career that spanned forty documentaries and nearly fifty years, Blank assembled a wildly idiosyncratic body of work, depicting a wide array of cultural subjects—among them the Polish American polka scene, Mardi Gras in all its pageantry, and, perhaps most famously, the troubled production of Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo—in an attentive but unobtrusive vérité mode. A piquant sampling of the director’s oeuvre, Food to Mouth celebrates Blank as a consummate observer of society’s unsung rituals: Garlic is an ode to the versatile flavors of the title bulb, while Women explores how standards of beauty translate across cultures. Blank’s primary stomping ground might have been his native country, but as scholar Andrew Horton writes in his liner essay for our selection of the director’s work, “these beautifully personal films take us beyond what it is to be ‘American’ to a more universal vision of being human.”
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