Directed by: Les Blank (1935 - 2013)
Werner Herzog may be the greatest self-mythologizer the cinema has ever known, but he wouldn’t have been able to sustain his fearless and enlightened persona if he didn’t put his money where his mouth is and film his wild feats of strength. Herzog has the uncanny ability to contort even the most benign events in such a way that they feed into his narrative, but there’s a reason that certain moments endure as the cornerstones of his myth: Les Blank was there to document them.
Blank, who died yesterday at the age of 77, was a revered filmmaker in his own right (his pieces on unique flavors of American music are increasingly essential viewing), but he was certainly best known as the man who braved the trenches with Herzog, capturing the auteur’s most unbelievable moments and crafting them into legend. “Burden of Dreams,” Blank’s documentary about the notoriously troubled production of “Fitzcarraldo,” is one of the best films about filmmaking, as engaging a portrait of demented determination as any that has ever been shot. Just as crucial to Herzog’s myth, however, is a short film about a decidedly less dramatic event.