A Poem Is A Naked Person

Declared by more than one critic the best rock documentary ever made, yet unreleased for over 40 years, the late Les Blank’s first feature is a portrait of Oklahoma rocker Leon Russell at the height of his influence — just off of Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour and George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh. In between rollicking concert footage from Austin’s fabled Armadillo World Headquarters and the studio sessions for Hank Wilson’s Back, Vol. I, his LP of country standards showcasing some of Nashville’s finest, we get a transcendent George Jones, a clean-shaven Willie Nelson, a dust-up with folkie Eric Anderson that rivals the Dylan/Donovan throwdown in Don’t Look Back and tons of Blank’s signature Americana (Pentecostal churches, building demolitions, hippie weddings and Lone Star surrealist Jim Franklin feeding mice to his pet snake). Blank’s son Harrod brokered an armistice after his father’s passing, and the re-mastered, streamlined result is a revelation. Recently asked at SXSW why he’d kept it out of circulation all these years, the white-haired Russell replied, “I really can’t remember.”

Dir. Les Blank, 1974, DCP, 90 min.