Greenpoint, October, 2015

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Two Blue Pick-Ups

Two movies on the Fourth of July. What's more All-American that? An afternoon showing at Film Fourm of Les Blank's documentary about Leon Russell, A Poem is a Naked Person. Shot in 1972-74, and only now released, it's really more of a brilliant and shaggy scrapbook of those times. The trailer gives you a good taste of what's in store. In typical Les Blank style, the opening credits are handled by signs nailed on a tree (probably around the studio in Oklahoma Russell is building) and on the door of a blue pick-up.

Did you get the message from the girl in white at the very end? (Good story on Leon Russell and the genesis for the film on Oklahoma-themed blog Center for Open Secrets.)
The second feature, streaming via Netflix, was An American Journey: In Robert Frank's Footsteps. A French filmmaker recounts the making of Frank's iconic work The Americans. Not a perfect doc, by any means, its best parts are the filmmaker tracking down subjects and locations for some of the photos in the book. Finding the boy standing beneath the flag at the Jay, New York, Fourth of July parade (above) or standing in the window of the Butte hotel room from which Frank took his photo looking out over bleak rooftops and streets.

In South Carolina, a local guy points out where the disused butcher shop still exists behind some more modern buildings. "The barber shop?" the fillmmaker asks, hoping to shoot the one Frank did. "No, the butcher shop." "What happened to the barber shop?" "It's gone," the guide answers. He smiles, "Nothing we can do about that."

They may be filler, but I also enjoyed the footage driving on those roads Frank travelled sixty years ago. [Note: The staff of BTB hits the road for a week or so tomorrow. Until then, keep on truckin'.]

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