Les Blank journeys down the bayous and byways of Southwest Louisiana in this perennially fresh portrait of the region’s Cajun community from 1970. The Balfa Brothers, Nathan Abshire and Marc Savoy provide the soundtrack.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2015
Les Blank’s earliest celebration of the food, music and history of Louisiana’s Acadians, better known as Cajuns, was shot in 1970, but it feels ageless. The world it captures probably looked, sounded and tasted just as good 50 years earlier. Early in the film, handwritten title cards explain the centuries-long diasporic history of Cajun peoples. The sense of finding ourselves introduced to a newly discovered corner of the world remains amazingly fresh as Blank’s subjects gaze into his lens and extol the simple life. We join them fishing, shrimping, preparing coffee, cooking up a feast of fish-head stew or barbecue, eating with gusto – and dancing. Musicians are never far away, with the Balfa Brothers and Nathan Abshire to the fore. Accordion maker and player, Marc Savoy, makes his first film appearance.
Werner Herzog has named this his favourite of Blank’s movies, not least for its famous tooth extraction scene which he lifted, with Blank’s encouragement, for one of his own features. ‘Got more room now’, grins the happily de-toothed partier. ‘Where’s my beer?’.