Les Blank, who died over the weekend, was known as a documentarian, but in his New York Times obituary, his ex-wife said he merely thought of himself, “as a filmmaker whose work happened to be about real poeple.”
Blank’s best know work is Burden of Dreams, a meta-chronicle of Werner Herzog’s mad and all-consuming efforts to make the film Fitzcarraldo, which is about a man’s mad and all-consuming efforts to bring a dream of art to life. Want a mind-blowing double feature? Watch Fitzcarraldo first, then Burden of Dreams.
I came across Blank’s “Gap-Toothed Women” by chance 10 years ago or so and was amazed at how such a seemingly mundane subject could be made into a movie so engrossing and affecting. The work really highlights Blank’s humanity and empathy for his subjects. Here’s a clip: