Filmmaker Les Blank Dead at 77

April 8, 2013

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Les Blank, a documentarian whose films gained cult fame for examined society's fringes and times when Werner Herzog would eat boots, died on Sunday. The 77-year-old director had reportedly been fighting bladder cancer.

Blank's films, while never great commercial successes and seldom even feature length, were largely respected by his peers. Blank received lifetime achievement awards from the American Film Institute and the International Documentary Association, and in 2007 he became only the third filmmaker to take home the Edward MacDowell Medal, given annually to one who's made an outstanding contribution to the arts. His films documented real people, often the eccentric, examining their quirky traditions, music, and food. His subjects have included a zydeco accordionist, garlic zealots, various fiddlers, Dizzy Gillespie, and perhaps most famously, fellow director Werner Herzog. Blank's 1982 Burden of Dreams was something of a Hearts of Darkness for Herzog's Fitzcarraldo, documenting that film's torturous, troubled production and insane attempts to haul a massive steamship over a hill. Blank also notably documented the time Herzog lost a bet and ate a shoe. Here's that:

Les Blank, Filmmaker of America's Periphery, Dies at 77 [NYT]

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