Director Les Blank shooting in A Poem is a Naked Person.
Director Les Blank shooting A Poem Is a Naked Person. JANUS FILMS

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This documentary, A Poem Is a Naked Person, which opens today at the Grand Illusion, was a Les Bank film commissioned by the American rural boogie songwriter/producer/session man Leon Russell during his early 1970s ascent to stardom. In the mid-’60s, Russell was part of the famous LA session group the Wrecking Crew, but while he was scoring a big hit with Joe Cocker, he also started a label, built a studio, and went solo.

Poem, however, went unreleased as Russell was unhappy with the final result. I get why Russell didn't like the film, but I'm impressed with the filmmaker’s visual feeling and atmosphere as mated to Russell's serious/not serious rock-star world. Oh, and all the peripheral Oklahoma weirdness makes for a fantastic period document.

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