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Documentary Film-Maker Les Blank Dies Aged 77, Son Confirms


Werner Herzog Les Blank

Harrod Blank, the son of the acclaimed documentary filmmaker Les Blank, has confirmed the death of his father, aged 77. Blank died at his home in Berkeley, California nearly a year after being diagnosed with bladder cancer.

Blank became renown for his inquisitive eye and large range of subject matter. There was nothing he wouldn’t investigate and make an engaging documentary on. His early work focussed on music, with 1965's "Dizzy Gillespie" and "The Blues Accordin' to Lightnin' Hopkins." His attention then turned to food, but not your average food docs, oh no. "Garlic is as Good as 10 Mothers," and 2007's "All in This Tea" were his attempts at gastronomically documentaries. "I think he's a national treasure," filmmaker Taylor Hackford, president of the Directors Guild of America, told the New York Times. "Although his films are not well known at the moment, they'll take their place". His 1987 film "Gap-Toothed Women" was a series of interviews on the subject spurred by an old high school crush. "If he was interested in gap-toothed women, he's going to make a film about it. If he wants to make a film about garlic because he loves to eat garlic, he's going to do it," said his son who is also a filmmaker.

Perhaps his best-known work involved following the acclaimed director, Werner Herzog in 1979's Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe. "If I abandon this project, I would be a man without dreams," Blank films Herzog saying in another collaboration between the two, ‘Burden of Dreams’. "I don't want to live like that."

Continue reading: Documentary Film-Maker Les Blank Dies Aged 77, Son Confirms

Burden Of Dreams Review


Very Good
Burden of Dreams is an odd choice for the Criterion Collection: It's a documentary about the making of a film (Fitzcarraldo) which itself has not even been released on the Criterion label. It's also the only making-of doc that Criterion has ever released (at least to my knowledge).

That said, Fitzcarraldo is strikingly unique in the history of film, and the story behind it is one worth hearing a little more about. It all started haltingly -- with Jason Robards and Mick Jagger, believe it or not, starring in the movie about a crazed rubber baron who wants to build an opera house deep in the Amazon rain forest. But after Robards gets sick and Jagger drops out, the film starts over, with Klaus Kinski in the famous lead role as Fitzcarraldo. Fitzcarraldo isn't just regular-crazy, he's totally nuts: Part of his plan involves dragging an enormous barge over a mile of land in order to reach an otherwise shut-off river, and director Werner Herzog staged this -- for real -- during the making of Fitzcarraldo.

Continue reading: Burden Of Dreams Review

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