Screened as part of NZIFF 2015

A Well Spent Life 1971

Directed by Les Blank, Skip Gerson

Texas sharecropper Mance Lipscomb began singing and playing guitar at an early age but was largely unknown until he was recorded by Chris Strachwitz at the age of 65. This invaluable portrait was filmed by Les Blank in 1971.

USA In English
44 minutes Blu-ray


Photography, Editor

Les Blank


Mance Lipscomb
Elnora Lipscomb


This exquisite portrait of obscure blues genius Mance Lipscomb is one of the earliest films in which documentarian Les Blank’s mature, laconic observational style appeared fully formed, and it’s one of the finest films he ever made. Blank realises that with a subject as charismatic and intrinsically fascinating as Lipscomb (and his unforgettable wife Elnora), there’s no need for a conventional documentary structure: you just want to hang out with these people for a while, soaking up their music, listening to their tall tales and getting to know their community. Thus, explanatory narration drifts away, to be replaced by a gorgeous free-floating impressionism, resulting in a film that’s gentle, bucolic and philosophical: associative rather than tendentious. It’s the ideal portrait of a self-effacing artist like Lipscomb, and it’s also a self-portrait of the values and priorities of Blank himself. — AL

“Blank makes excellent use of the materials at hand… and the result is a rich, fully fleshed out life study of one of the Southwest’s finest ‘songsters’.” — Hal Erickson, NY Times