Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Jason goes to the Niles Film Museum for a Les Blank evening

In preparation for the Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival (starting this Friday!), the Niles Film Museum has been showcasing local independent film and filmmakers (see, the theme of the festival is early independent studios, some of whom became big studios like Universal or Paramount). Last Friday was Les Blank night. And I, for one, couldn't have been happier.

Three short films were shown, starting with THE BLUES ACCORDING TO LIGHTNIN' HOPKINS. This is the one of the three that I had seen before (back at Docfest 2007), and one of Blank's earliest films. A slice of very local flavore of a great blues man, and a very funny guy (the traffic accident story is hilarious). It definitely holds up to multiple viewings, and I especially noticed that even when I couldn't understand everything he was saying (he has a very thick accent), his voice was like music that I could listen to and get without understanding.

Next up was WERNER HERZOG EATS HIS SHOE, a film I've wanted to see for a long time. Back in the 70's and 80's, both Werner Herzog and Les Blank were regulars at the Pacific Film Archives in Berkeley, and there was a young student who was constantly bugging Herzog with ideas for films. Herzog told him he should make a movie, and the student complained that he had no money, no camera, and no clue as to how to even start making a movie. Herzog responded that he didn't need that, he just lacked the guts, and in fact if he ever made a movie he (Herzog) would eat his shoe. Well, that student was Errol Morris, who went on to become one of the most famous documentary filmmakers in the world (and won an Oscar for FOG OF WAR). He ran off and made GATES OF HEAVEN, a documentary about a pet cemetary, and it was very well received. At the Berkeley premiere of the film, Herzog made good on his promise. With the help of Alice Waters and the Chez Panisse kitchen, he cooked it with lots of garlic and duck fat (which was supposed to soften it up, but ended up making it incredibly hard) and ate his shoe on stage. Hilarious, and it was really weird to see Werner Herzog looking so young.

And finally, we finished the night with GARLIC IS AS GOOD AS TEN MOTHERS, which has recently been included in the national film registry as a historically important film. It Features Alice Waters and the kitchen of Chez Panisse again, as well as a colorful collection of local garlic worshippers. And they are worshippers, some of these guys go beyond 'I like the taste of garlic and things I can cook with it' to 'I feel like dressing up in a garlic costume and writing my own garlic gospel (garlospel?)' It was fun, it was funny, and I could swear by the end I could smell the beautiful aroma of garlic wafting through the room.

That was because as we were watching the movie, volunteers were putting together a spread of snacks, including roast garlic. Mmmm...delicious!

You can purchase the movies above on DVD as well as other films by Les Blank or his label Flower Films at his website.

No comments: