Monday, May 6, 2013

Les Blank (1935-2013)

I just learned of the sad passing of the brilliant documentarian Les Blank.

For those of you not familiar with Mr. Blank, Netflix 1982's "Burden of Dreams", it'll blow your mind.  It's a documentary on the surreal making of Werner Herzog's "Fitzcarraldo".  He also created many other wonderful documentaries, including "Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers".

But I also had a personal relationship with Les.  I think it was very early in my career, around 1988.  I can't remember all the details of our meeting, but I was impressed with how he was able to sell his videocassettes at the end of his screening.

You could often see him at various festivals in his movie van, selling his films out of the back.  What a novel way to make money and spread the films to the local community, and also increase his fan base.  I immediately put the first compilation of my own short films, "Plymptoons", into production - and it became a big success, which helped to finance my other movies.  Bravo, Les!

I had another occasion to hang out with the great filmmaker at the wonderful Woods Hole Film Festival in Massachusetts.  He had the cabin next to mine, facing the beach.  Each morning he'd get up bright and early and go for a swim.  Not just to take a dip - no, he swam around the island.  As I saw him disappear over the horizon, I thought he'd never return - but an hour later, he came swimming back at full speed.  My God, he must have been an Olympian when he was younger.

That's why I was surprised to hear of his death, at the relatively early age of 77.

If you get a chance, check out his films, especially "Burden of Dreams".

1 comment:

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