2010 Ponderosa Stomp
Clandestine Celluloid Film Series
24th & 25th of September One Eyed Jacks, New Orleans, Louisiana
“J’ai Ete Au Bal/I Went To The Dance”
(dir. Les Blank, Maureen Gosling & Chris Strachwitz, 1989, 30 min/clips)
Friday, September 24th, 2:00 pm
Unreleased selections, including performance and B-roll footage of featured musicians, from a true classic of its genre; considered to be the definitive film on the history of the toe-tapping, foot-stomping music of French Southwest Louisiana, the film includes many Cajun and Zydeco greats, featuring Michael Doucet and Beausoleil, Clifton Chenier, Marc and Ann Savoy, DL Menard, and many others.
Filmmakers Les Blank and Chris Strachwitz in attendance. Discussion to follow screening about field recording, producing music, and documentary filmmaking
Les Blank (Hot Pepper, J’Ai Ete Au Bal/IWent 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.”
Chris Strachwitz (J’Ai Ete Au Bal), one of America’s unsung heroes of field recording and music distribution, is the founder and president of Arhoolie Records, based in El Cerrito, California. Strachwitz has been recording, producing and releasing music for more than 40 years and has worked with Lightnin’ Hopkins, Mance Lipscomb, Clifton Chenier, Flaco Jiminez, Fred McDowell, Country Joe and the Fish and countless others. Strachwitz opened Down Home Retail Music Store in 1976, a place where you can still listen to music before you buy it. He has collaborated with fellow East Bay resident Les Blank on various film projects, including J'ai Été Au Bal / I Went to the Dance and is the executive director and producer of Clifton Chenier, the King of Zydeco (1987), distributed by Blank’s Flower Films. His idea of making records grew out of his hobby of collecting 78-rpm recordings of various vernacular traditions, which began shortly after his arrival in the US from Germany as a teenager in 1947. On November 3, 1960, the first Arhoolie LP arrived from the pressing plant: 250 copies of Mance Lipscomb’s “Texas Sharecropper and Songster.” Strachwitz and friends sat around a kitchen table, pasting up the album covers for all 250 copies! The rest is history…, which Strachwitz will share with us during a post-screening discussion.