A Poem is a Naked Person

Les Blank's first feature-length documentary captures music and other events at Leon Russell's Oklahoma recording studio during a three-year period (1972-1974).


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  • ★★★★½ review by davidehrlich on Letterboxd

    A free-associative trip through the golden years of rhythm and blues, Les Blank’s long-lost Leon Russell doc unfolds like a southern-fried Almost Famous that’s been stitched together from all of the little observations that a scripted film would leave out. Shot between 1972 and 1974 and buried for more than four decades after Russell balked at the finished product, A Poem Is a Naked Person has been lovingly remastered by the late filmmaker’s son (after he connected with Russell on Facebook). The movie hasn’t just been worth the wait, it’s been transformed by it: In the ’70s, this would’ve been an unusually intimate tour portrait. Now, it’s a newly unearthed time capsule, the remarkable clarity of Blank’s portrait compounded by the distance from which we’re looking at it.


  • ★★★★★ review by Jon M. on Letterboxd

    As I continued to collect my thoughts on this beautiful, brilliant film, I can sum it up briefly as such:

    Les Blank's approach to documentary - and, let's be honest, cinema in general - is a delight. He's one of the most life-affirming directors in history. A Poem is a Naked Person is a great tribute to life, death, and most of all, the pleasures of the human experience. Each moment is special and it's a reminder of just how great it is to be alive. In describing her family, one of this film's subjects quips, "We're just pleasure-seekers." But, in indulging in Blank's films, so are we. And what a pleasure they are.

  • ★★★½ review by Matty Stanfield on Letterboxd

    Les Blank's "lost" documentary which follows Leon Russell for about two years, 1972 to 1974, has finally found its way out to audiences.

    Loose in construction and without any real sort of focus, this experimental attempt to capture two years in the life of an emerging power in the world of rock, R&B and country quickly evolves into an unguided glimpse into a very specific time in some very specific places. Interestingly, those times and places are seldom named.

    Leon Russell sits firmly in the center of what often threatens to derail into a sort of lost stupor of 1970's Americana and eccentric artistry. The surprising thing is that "A Poem is a Naked Person" never goes off the rails. It is a constantly turbulent ride, but it has a great deal to show and say.

    The music is exceptional, the conversations may not always be of any particular interest but they forge into an interesting state of mind that could have only resulted in the mid 1970's at the intersection of Rock and Country musicians attempt to form harmony.

    For fans of Russell and this era of rock music, this film is a fun and bumpy ride. For those interested in the 1970's American ideology it is an even greater treat.

    Confusing, strange, comical and strangely interesting -- Les Blank's film most likely would have failed if it had managed to be released at the time it was completed. But some 40 years later, "A Poem is a Naked Person" has aged into an introspective film that constantly offers surprises.

  • ★★★★½ review by Ben Elias on Letterboxd

    That’s it! I’m moving in with all my friends and doubling down on this whole smoking thing!

  • ★★★★ review by Nick on Letterboxd

    Blank is entranced by the quaint and colorful beauty of his surroundings, and allows his camera to loosely follow behind him as his attention diverts from audience member to town citizen, from lake to mural, from landmark to fallen landmark, from life to death. the importance of each throwaway, likely drug-influenced thought feels twice as amplified: a true time capsule, in that everything recorded is clearly a product of the moment; a nostalgic reminder of the merits of existing as freely as its subjects do, with a crushing cognizance of what those merits mean in the long term.

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