A Poem Is a Naked Person

Thematic In Process: Documenting Creativity

Between 1972 and 1974, singer-songwriter Leon Russell gave director Les Blank almost-unlimited access to film him in his studio in northeast Oklahoma and on the road. Blank documented the musician recording music, performing on stage, and connecting behind the scenes with collaborators and friends. Musicians like Willie Nelson and George Jones show up; the making of collective music is the central pulse of the film. Frequently, Russell’s songs play on as Blanks’s camera drifts elsewhere to observe happenings outside the studio—painting an elaborate pool, catching an enormous catfish. During live performances, the camera gets close before speeding away, swinging around from musician to musician to document the set in sublimely saturated color. These scenes, and the way they are photographed, imbue the portrait with a profound sense of time and place. But despite all this, the result was not what the musician had hoped. When Blank finished the film, Russell refused to release it, and the documentary sat on the shelf for decades, until it was finally released in 2015.  ST



Les Blank


Denny Cordell, Leon Russell, Les Blank Films


Les Blank


Les Blank

Release Year


Festival Year



United States

Run Time

90 minutes