From the Vaults: Blank Checks Out

Les Blank tells us the favorite all of his films

Amid the public outpouring of grief over the passing of Roger Ebert this past week, the death of another great personage of the cinema may have passed unnoticed by many. Les Blank, the great American documentarian, died this past Sunday after a career spent following his interests on film and sharing them with the public.


Les Blank

Blank's two most frequent subjects were music and food. A sampling of his music subjects include Dizzy Gillespie, Lightnin' Hopkins, Clifton Chenier, the Ry Cooder Group, Huey Lewis and the News, Mance Lipscomb, norteño border music, and the unique gumbo that fuels the various sounds that emerge from New Orleans. Food was also one of his passions, with titles such as Garlic Is as Good as Ten Mothers, All in This Tea, and In Heaven There Is No Beer? typical of his output. In a 1999 interview with Anne S. Lewis in The Austin Chronicle, he explains his gustatory focus: "I like eating a lot; it's one of my main passions. … And I learned early on that audiences like food; it's the one universal thing that everyone's interested in."


The Blues Accordin' to Lightnin' Hopkins

His filmmaking often brought him to Texas, and Blank appeared from time to time in Austin. He premiered new work at the second annual SXSW Film Festival in 1995, and spoke with Lewis in "Blank's Slates" on the occasion of an appearance at the Austin Film Society's Texas Documentary Tour in 1999. In the delightful interview, he discloses the title of the favorite film he's made and touts his website where, to this day, DVDs and T-shirts can be ordered. To quote one of his titles, Blank's films are Always a Pleasure.

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