Unreleased for more than 40 years, the great documentary filmmaker Les Blank’s wonderful, raucous “A Poem Is a Naked Person” has finally emerged.
In 1972, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Leon Russell invited Blank to make a film about him and his rock/blues/bluegrass/gospel music. Setting up with collaborator Maureen Gosling at Russell’s recording complex, Paradise Studios, in Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees, about ninety miles northeast of Tulsa, Blank simultaneously edited footage he had recently shot of Creole music and culture in Louisiana, and kept his camera rolling for two years, accumulating nearly 60 hours of 16mm film.
Blank chronicled exuberant scenes of Russell and his band rehearsing, recording and performing, legends like Willie Nelson and George Jones stopping by to play, and visits by other musicians and artists. And moving outside the studio walls, beyond just documenting the music, Blank wove in the local rural culture, the counterculture, and a building’s controlled implosion in Tulsa, fixing Paradise Studios in a now vanished time and place.
“A Poem Is a Naked Person” will open on Wednesday, July 1 at Film Forum for a two-week run. Leon Russell will be in person at the 7:15 pm show.