For nearly five years, acclaimed German filmmaker Werner Herzog desperately tried to complete one of the most ambitious and difficult films of his career— Fitzcarraldo, the story of one man’s attempt to build an opera house deep in the Amazon jungle. Documentary filmmaker Les Blank captured the unfolding of this production, made more perilous by Herzog’s determination to shoot the most daunting scenes without models or special effects, including a sequence requiring hundreds of native Indians to pull a full-size, 320-ton steamship over a small mountain. The result is an extraordinary document of the filmmaking process and a unique look into the single-minded mission of one of cinema’s most fearless directors. —The Criterion Collection
Les Blank (b. 27 November 1935, Tampa, Florida, United States) is an American documentary filmmaker best known for his portraits of American traditional musicians.
Blank attended Tulane University in New Orleans, where he received a B.A. in English literature and an M.F.A. in theater. He had also studied communications at the University of Southern California. Following his university education he founded his own production company, Flower Films, and most of his films since that time have been independently produced, often with the assistance of grants from cultural agencies, both governmental and non-governmental.
Most of his films focus on American traditional music forms including (among others) blues, Appalachian, Cajun, Creole, Tex-Mex, polka, tamburitza, and Hawaiian musics. Many of these films represent the only filmed documents of musicians who are now deceased.
Blank’s films focusing on musical subjects often spend much of their running time focusing not… read more
Compelling, it focuses more on the tumultuous production and the in house politics of dealing with the local tribes, but is no less for it. The film doesn't outright condemn Herzog, but examines and is perhaps a bit critical of the director's eccentricity. Fantastic about process as well.
Remembrances of Roger Ebert, the loss of Les Blank, Michael Snow on Aki Onda, stunning sketches by Massimo Carnevale & more.