2010 Ponderosa Stomp
Clandestine Celluloid Film Series
24th & 25th of September One Eyed Jacks, New Orleans, Louisiana
(dir. Les Blank, 1973, 58 min)
Friday, September 24th, 1:30 pm
A thrilling musical portrait of zydeco king Clifton Chenier, who combines the pulsating rhythms of Cajun dance music and black R&B with African overtones, belting out his irresistible music in the sweaty juke joints of South Louisiana. It contains this classic exchange between two customers: "People is people," answered by "Everywhere you go." Chenier’s longtime guitarist, Lil Buck Sinegal, also performs and gives a live interview this year at Ponderosa Stomp.
Les Blank (Hot Pepper, J’Ai Ete Au Bal/I Went to the Dance, Clandestine rock and roll film) is an award-winning filmmaker whose experience at age four, of watching the animated film Pinocchio at the legendary Tampa Theater, changed his life forever. Blank has made over 40 vibrant, poetic, lyrical and loopy films in as many years and collaborated with both cultural icons--Werner Herzog, Ry Cooder, Clifton Chenier, Mance Lipscomb--and unheralded, unknown heroes. His films on and about the characters, customs and music of the American South are true, unadulterated experiences, both sacred and profane. Best known for a series of poetic films that led Time Magazine critic Jay Cocks to write, "I can't believe that anyone interested in movies or America...could watch Blank's work without feeling they'd been granted a casual, soft-spoken revelation", Blank was born in 1935 in Tampa, Florida and attended Tulane University in New Orleans, where he played football, received a B.A. in English literature and an M.F.A. in theatre. In 1967, after two years in the Ph.D. film program at the University of Southern California, he began his first independent films, on Texas blues singer Lightnin' Hopkins and the newly forming sub-culture known as flower children.
Blank’s numerous films, two of which have been selected for the Library of Congress National Film Registry, offer intimate glimpses into the lives and music of passionate people who live at the periphery of American society. Blank’s film universe includes rural Louisiana French musicians and cooks, Mexican-Americans, New Orleans music and Mardi Gras, garlic fanatics, German filmmaker Werner Herzog, Appalachian fiddlers, Polish-American polka dancers, rock musicians, Serbian-American music and religion, Hawaiian music and family traditions, Afro-Cuban drumming and religious tradition, East Texas bluesmen, tourists in Europe and even gap-toothed women. In 1990, he received the American Film Institute's Maya Deren Award for outstanding lifetime achievement as an independent filmmaker. He is currently working on films about documentary film pioneer Richard Leacock (a cameraman on Louisiana Story) and Alabama outsider artist Butch Anthony. For Blank, “I do what I do. I just film. I stick things together in a way I think they should be put to make a picture of what it was I saw.”