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H D - S E N S E I

A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

A Poem is a Naked Person [Blu-ray]


(Les Blank, 1974)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Les Blank Films

Video: Criterion Collection Spine #805



Region: 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:30:06.442

Disc Size: 48,160,919,461 bytes

Feature Size: 26,360,573,952 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.89 Mbps

Chapters: 19

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: March 29th, 2016



Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit



English (SDH), none


New conversation between musician Leon Russell and Harrod Blank (26:40)
Excerpts from a 2013 Q&A with Les Blank (8:40)
A Film’s Forty-Year Journey: The Making of “A Poem Is a Naked Person,” a new documentary featuring interviews with Harrod Blank, assistant editor and sound recordist Maureen Gosling, and artist Jim Franklin (36:46)
Out in the Woods, a short documentary by Gosling (12:59)
• 3 Trailers (1:41, 2:56 and 2:01)
PLUS: An essay by critic Kent Jones






Description: Les Blank considered this free-form feature documentary about beloved singer-songwriter Leon Russell, filmed between 1972 and 1974, to be one of his greatest accomplishments. Yet it has not been released until now. Hired by Russell to film him at his recording studio in northeast Oklahoma, Blank ended up constructing a unique, intimate portrait of a musician and his environment. Made up of mesmerizing scenes of Russell and his band performing, both in concert and in the studio, as well as off-the-cuff moments behind the scenes, this singular film—which also features performances by Willie Nelson and George Jones—has attained legendary status over the years. It’s a work of rough beauty that serves as testament to Blank’s cinematic daring and Russell’s immense musical talents.



The Film:

A Poem Is a Naked Person is one of Les Blank's least experimental approaches to the documentary form, though anyone familiar with more than a handful of the director's 40-plus shorts and features knows that even Blank's most conventional work remains an elusive vision, punctuated by cultural insights that elude many filmmakers for their entire careers. In The Blues Accordin' to Lightnin' Hopkins, one of Blank's first short films, the musical collage approach of God Respects Us When We Work, But Loves Us When We Dance is abandoned for what would originate some of Blank's signature techniques, namely a formal approach that inverts typical notions of causality and explication. Rather than explaining anything from the inside out, Blank makes no distinction between the two, shirking exposition or establishing segments of any sort for a sustained meditation on musical culture, as Blank's camera weaves in and out of various places with snake-like stealth, much like an actual snake in A Poem Is a Naked Person that's seen carefully entrapping and consuming a baby chick.

Excerpt from Slant Magazine located HERE

Never released before in theaters, the late, great documentarian Les Blank's 1974 "A Poem Is a Naked Person" is a tuneful peculiarity, capturing singer-songwriter Leon Russell and his bandmates, his friends, guest musicians and Oklahoma eccentrics.

Blank loved being a cultural omnivore with his camera, so a country-meets-blues-meets-rock showman like Russell — who initiated the project and produced it — seemed a natural fit. The result is a mix of rehearsal footage, lively gigs and rural happenings (a building demolition, a goose grab) that hews less to conventional music documentary portraiture than to a loose, atmospheric brush stroke of a world that created Russell and that grows out of him.

Excerpt from LA Times located HERE


Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

A Poem Is a Naked Person looks excellent on Blu-ray from Criterion and is cited as a "New, restored 2K digital transfer, supervised by executive producer Harrod Blank, director Les Blank’s son, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack".  Since this was shot on 16mm we get a predictably heavy textured look. Colors show depth and the overall appearance extends beyond the production limitations showing wonderful consistent, thick, grain. There were a few light vertical scratches that were very minimal. The visuals are a rich, and impressive, representation - and that is all we can ask. This dual-layered Blu-ray, with max'ed out bitrate, reproduced a very strong 1080P presentation.


















Audio :

Typically flat, linear PCM mono track at 1152 kbps (24-bit) - that actually sounds quite buoyant at times. Performances are very grass root - but still sound pleasing. There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A' disc.


Extras :

Criterion add many extras including a new 27-minute conversation, recorded by Criterion in Nashville, between musician Leon Russell and Harrod Blank. Harrod was instrumental in helping A Poem Is a Naked Person see the light of day, after it has gone largely unseen for decades. They talk about the film's long journey from its production in the early 70s to its release in 2015. There are 9-minutes worth of excerpts from a 2013 Q&A with Les Blank that took place in the Pixar Animation Studios in Northern California - we see bits and pieces of his discussion with the audience of family and friends. A Film’s Forty-Year Journey: The Making of “A Poem Is a Naked Person,” is a new 37-minute documentary featuring interviews with Harrod Blank, assistant editor and sound recordist Maureen Gosling, and artist Jim Franklin, the artist prominently featured in the film. Out in the Woods is a 13-minute documentary by Maureen Gosling, who worked on A Poem Is a Naked Person. She spent two years making the film with director Les Blank, living for much of that time at Grand Lake O' the Cherokees in northern Oklahoma, where Leon Russell was building a new recording studio. During that period, she shot her own Super 8 footage, a portion of which is used in this short with excerpts from letters she wrote to family. There are three trailers and the package has a liner notes booklets with an essay by critic Kent Jones.



A Poem Is a Naked Person is very cool - an exceptional package from Criterion celebrating the film's rebirth with stellar a/v and some revealing supplements.  This was so much better than I was anticipating - basically because I knew very little about Leon Russell but the whole production is steeped in Les Blank charm and it draws you into this world. This Blu-ray package is an easy recommendation. Even not being initially keen on the subject matter - it is something I will definitely be revisiting and playing for friends.

Gary Tooze

February 29th, 2016


About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze






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