Les Blank

"Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, 'The invariable mark of wisdom is to find the miraculous in the common.' By this definition, Les Blank is one wise filmmaker. His rich body of cinematic work is filled with miracles and not just of sound and image. One can almost smell and taste aspects of his films, from GARLIC IS AS GOOD AS TEN MOTHERS to WERNER HERZOG EATS HIS SHOE; and there is a palpability to his work - a sense of detail and of place - in such movies as BURDEN OF DREAMS.

"Some people (unfortunate viewers!) assume that documentaries are didactic chronicles, usually narrated by an all-knowing and often paternal male voice. Les Blank's documentaries, from HOT PEPPER to IN HEAVEN THERE IS NO BEER?, resist such categorization. They're more often joyful glimpses of an America far from the corporate mainstream. He has been called something of an anthropologist, as he has recorded such a variety of ethnic cultures - from the music of Chicanos in CHULAS FRONTERAS, to the Serbian-American communities of Chicago and California in ZIVELI, to the Cajun and Zydeco musicians of Southwest Louisiana in I WENT TO THE DANCE. But it takes more than an anthropologist to capture Mardi Gras in New Orleans (especially the black community), as Blank does in ALWAYS FOR PLEASURE. It takes a filmmaker.

"Although I consider Les Blank to be a quintessentially American filmmaker, something about his work reminds me of Jean Renoir. Both are drawn to the rituals of daily life - the meals, music and festivals that bind individuals together into communities. The films of both exhibit a sharp or curious eye balanced by an expansive heart. If there's one Les Blank film title that sums this up for me, it's from a 20-minute movies of the late '60s, GOD RESPECTS US WHEN WE WORK, BUT LOVES US WHEN WE DANCE." - Annette Isendorf's Presentation of "The AFI's Maya Deren Award for Outstanding Lifetime Achievement as an Independent Filmmaker" to Les Blank, February 8, 1990, Angelika Film Center, NYC