An uncompromisingly independent filmmaker, Les Blank made documentaries for nearly fifty years, elegantly disappearing with his camera into cultural spots rarely seen on-screen—mostly on the peripheries of the United States, but also occasionally abroad. Seemingly off-the-cuff yet poetically constructed, these films are humane, sometimes wry, always engaging tributes to music, food, and all sorts of regionally specific delights. This collector’s set provides a diverse survey of Les Blank’s vast output, including fourteen of his best-known works and eight related short films.
For more information on the individual films, click here.
New 2K digital restorations of all fourteen films, with uncompressed monaural or stereo soundtracks on the Blu-rays:
The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins (1968 • 31 minutes • Color • Monaural • 1.33:1 aspect ratio) Soon after founding his production company, Flower Films, Les Blank got up close to the legendary Texas blues musician Lightnin’ Hopkins for this rollicking film.
God Respects Us When We Work, but Loves Us When We Dance (1968 • 20 minutes • Color • Monaural • 1.33:1 aspect ratio) Blank took his camera to the historic 1967 Easter Sunday love-in in Los Angeles for this immersive, even spiritual collage of a film.
Spend It All (1971 • 43 minutes • Color • Monaural • In English and French with English subtitles • 1.33:1 aspect ratio) Blank journeys down the bayous and byways of Southwest Louisiana in this riveting portrait of the region’s Cajun community.
A Well Spent Life (1971 • 44 minutes • Color • Monaural • 1.33:1 aspect ratio) Musician Mance Lipscomb commands the screen in Blank’s vivid sketch of a man some consider the greatest blues guitarist who ever lived.
Dry Wood (1973 • 37 minutes • Color • Monaural • In English and French with English subtitles • 1.33:1 aspect ratio) Blank ventured back to Southwest Louisiana for this work of ramshackle beauty, an immersion in the region’s black Creole community that teems with delightful detail.
Hot Pepper (1973 • 54 minutes • Color • Monaural • In English and French with English subtitles • 1.33:1 aspect ratio) This is an energetic portrait of the Grammy-winning Creole musician Clifton Chenier, a.k.a. the King of Zydeco; Blank beautifully captures his music’s propulsive, foot-tapping joy.
Always for Pleasure (1978 • 57 minutes • Color • Monaural • 1.33:1 aspect ratio) Blank’s raucous tribute to the sights, sounds, and flavors of New Orleans is perhaps his most sustained representation of pure joy.
Garlic Is as Good as Ten Mothers (1980 • 50 minutes • Color • Monaural • In English and Spanish with English subtitles • 1.33:1 aspect ratio) More than just a nonfiction lark, Blank’s highly personal film ode to the “stinking rose” is a loving tribute both to a food that unites the most disparate of cuisines and to the East Bay, California, community that appears on-screen.
Sprout Wings and Fly (1983 • 30 minutes • Color • Monaural • 1.33:1 aspect ratio) This is a warm depiction of the life of old-time fiddler Tommy Jarrell in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.
In Heaven There Is No Beer? (1984 • 49 minutes • Color • Monaural • 1.33:1 aspect ratio) A cinematic jamboree, this film finds Blank in a characteristically jubilant mode as he explores “polka happiness” and the Polish American polka subculture.
Gap-Toothed Women (1987 • 31 minutes • Color • Monaural • 1.33:1 aspect ratio) Blank breezily questions our commonly accepted standards of beauty with this paean to women with extra-wide dental spaces.
Yum, Yum, Yum! A Taste of Cajun and Creole Cooking (1990 • 31 minutes • Color • Monaural • In English and French with English subtitles • 1.33:1 aspect ratio) Accordionist Marc Savoy and his family and friends show us how to make goo courtbouillon, gumbo, étouffée, boudin, and other Cajun and Creole delights.
The Maestro: King of the Cowboy Artists (1994 • 53 minutes • Color • Monaural • 1.33:1 aspect ratio) This portrait of the free-spirited painter and singing cowboy Gerald Gaxiola is a testament to creativity unencumbered by commerce.
Sworn to the Drum: A Tribute to Francisco Aguabella (1995 • 34 minutes • Color • Stereo • In English and Spanish with English subtitles • 1.33:1 aspect ratio) The impassioned rhythms of Francisco Aguabella’s conga propel this portrait of the great Afro-Cuban percussionist.
Janus Films is proud to present a touring retrospective spanning Abbas Kiarostami’s nearly five-decade career. This series includes new restorations, undertaken by the Criterion Collection and MK2, of The Koker Trilogy, Taste of Cherry, The Wind Will Carry Us, and rarely screened shorts and documentaries.
DCP, 35 mm, Blu-ray
This widely acclaimed film from Soviet director Elem Klimov is a stunning, senses-shattering plunge into the dehumanizing horrors of war. As Nazi forces encroach on his small village in present-day Belarus, teenage Flyora (Aleksei Kravchenko, in one of the screen’s most searing depictions of anguish since Renée Falconetti’s Joan of Arc) eagerly joins the Soviet resistance.
DCP, Blu-ray, DVD
Seattle, 1984. Taking their camera to the streets of what was supposedly America’s most livable city, filmmaker Martin Bell, photographer Mary Ellen Mark, and journalist Cheryl McCall set out to tell the stories of those society had left behind: homeless and runaway teenagers living on the city’s margins
DCP, Blu-ray, DVD