The acclaimed filmmaker Les Blank, who died in 2013, dug deep into American vernacular culture in his documentaries. Regional food and music were his focus, and, as a Tulane graduate, he famously trained his camera on the traditions of Louisiana, exploring Cajun and Creole cuisine, the music of Clifton Chenier, “Bois Sec” Ardoin, Nathan Abshire, Marc Savoy and Canray Fontenot, as well as New Orleans street-parade culture.
Films such as “Dry Wood,” “Hot Pepper” and “Spend It All,” made in the early 1970s, were keen and loving portraits of Louisiana life years before the spice and sound of the state’s native cooking and music came into wider vogue.
Blank’s passions were eclectic — the subjects of his lens also included garlic, polka music and women with gaps between their front teeth — and a festival named for his joyous 1978 documentary on New Orleans music and street culture, “Always for Pleasure,” channels that quirky, celebratory essence.
Thrown by Court 13, the film-focused local arts collective founded by “Beasts of the Southern Wild” director Benh Zeitlin, the second annual Always for Pleasure festival hosts three days of screenings, music, parades, storytelling events presented by the WWNO-affiliated live pop-up series Bring Your Own, and other diverse entertainments from Nov. 12-14. (The festival is largely for an adult audience; events also include an “erotic tintype photo booth.”)
Of particular note is a screening on Thursday, Nov. 12, of Blank’s “A Poem is a Naked Person.” On its face a documentary about the musician Leon Russell, the film is also a lyrical, dreamy and sometimes strange and digressive verité artifact of the early 1970s, when it was shot.
Mired in business complications, for decades “A Poem is a Naked Person” went unreleased, and was shown only at infrequent special events when the filmmaker could be in attendance. (In 2010, Blank presented an intimate screening of the film at the Ponderosa Stomp roots-music festival and conference in New Orleans.)
Earlier this year, after years of effort to secure proper clearances by Blank’s son Harrod, “A Poem is a Naked Person” screened at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, and received its first official theatrical release, 40 years after its completion.
A full weekend pass to the Always for Pleasure Festival, which includes four free drinks, is $25 at court13.com/alwaysforpleasure. Tickets to individual events are also available.