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Les Blank Interview From 1982 on Documentary 'Burden of Dreams,' Chronicling Herzog's Chaotic 'Fitzcarraldo'

Thompson on Hollywood By Joe Leydon | Thompson on Hollywood April 8, 2013 at 12:13PM

To celebrate the life of Les Blank I am sharing this interview I did with him at the 1982 Toronto Film Festival -- the very first Toronto Fest that I ever attended.
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Les Blank and Werner Herzog
Les Blank and Werner Herzog

To celebrate the life of Les Blank I am sharing this interview I did with him at the 1982 Toronto Film Festival -- the very first Toronto Fest that I ever attended.

TORONTO – In the lobby of the Bloor Theater, an unassuming fellow stands behind a small counter. Bearded and robust, looking much like a slimmed-down Santa Claus, he personally displays his wares: T-shirts emblazoned with the titles of films directed by Les Blank.

Inside the theater itself, a Blank film is currently unspooling. On the screen, a man rambles on about his obsessions. He’s been in the Peruvian jungle for far too long, trying to complete his work. He’s now near the end of his rope. His financial backers are pulling out. His crew is discontent, almost mutinous. Even the elements are against him.

And then there’s the jungle. Yes, the jungle.

“I see it as full of obscenity,” he says, the hysteria barely repressed. “Nature here is base and vile. The birds. I don’t think they sing. They just screech in pain…

“I shouldn’t make movies anymore. I should go to a lunatic asylum.”

The Toronto Film Festival audience responds to his monologues with smatterings of giggles, occasional gales of laughter. But some people are shifting nervously in their seats. A few actually get up and leave.

Read the rest of this interview here.

This article is related to: Les Blank, Interviews, Werner Herzog, Interviews


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.