FILM: A Poem Is A Naked Person

A Poem is a naked personA Poem Is A Naked Person is Les Blank’s film that was cobbled together between 1972 and 1974 about the legendary Leon Russell. That film was tackled to final assemblage just last year with Russell’s ok, by Blank’s son Harrod (Les is dead) and is now being released, four decades after it was filmed.

Leon Russell is as enigmatic a musician as there ever was and this film reveals him in his own Paradise Studios in Northeast Oklahoma, playing shows in New Orleans and California and introduces band-mates, artists and friends along the way. It is a quirky mélange of music and characters, with a spry and wry Russell in the center of a universe certainly of his own making.

The live concert footage here is a treat, we get “Song For You,” a tent-revival like “Jambalaya/On The Bayou,” live footage of Willie Nelson playing a small club and then in-studio stuff from George Jones and a rousing “Goodnight Irene” near the end that features harmonic player Charlie McCoy.

It’s evident that Russell is very careful in what he allows Blank to capture or would let be edited to be seen (Bob Dylan was around as well but he wouldn’t allow himself to be filmed.)

Certainly Leon Russell, though an American classic, is not everyone’s cup of tea, but A Poem Is A Naked Person is a damn good slice-of-life documentary, put together lovingly and now finally seeing a full release.

A Poem Is A Naked Person is in select theaters nationwide.

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