RIP Les Blank
Les Blank, who died yesterday aged 77, will be greatly missed. The poetic American documentary filmmaker averaged a film a year over a career spanning 40 years. Never one to leave an issue unexplored Blank made films about topics ranging from garlic and gap-toothed women to Appalachian fiddlers and tea in China. One of his most memorable accomplishments is proving to the world that Werner Herzog is a man of his word after he said he would eat his shoe if Errol Morris finished his 1978 documentary Gates of Heaven. Blank directed the aptly titled Werner Herzog eats his Shoe, which depicts Herzog boiling his shoe in garlic and herbs for 5 hours with the help of a top chef then eating it in front of an audience at the premiere of Gates of Heaven – everything except the soul that is as “one does not eat the bones of a chicken”.
Blank will remain to be an incredible respected and remembered figure in the world of film. Taylor Hackford, the president of the Directors Guild of America, has said: “Les Blank represents the choicest inspiration that a documentarian can have. He followed his interest and his heart and his passion. He doesn’t care how much money he has. He is bound to deliver on film exactly what he sees, and that is unique.” He was the first documentary filmmaker to earn the Edward MacDowell Medal, a national honor given to just one artist a year and was also awarded the Maya Deren Award for outstanding lifetime achievement as an independent filmmaker.