A Poem Is a Naked PersonCultureCinemaMovie reviews
Filmed between 1972-1974, Les Blank’s documentary about Oklahoma musician Leon Russell A Poem Is a Naked Person has finally received a theatrical release.
Creative differences and copyright issues led to the original plans being shelved, however, following Blank’s death in 2013, his son Harrod was able to complete the film and the first public showing in 2015.
A Poem Is a Naked Person falls somewhere between a documentary and a concert film, but cannot be fully attributed to either. There is no clear flow within its narrative – stage shots, interview soundbites and seemingly unrelated scenes intermingle in a way that is hard to follow – and yet seems to make perfect sense at the same time. Audiences may take a while to settle into the styling, however this distinct format is one of the aspects which makes a viewing so worthwhile.
Given that the footage is from the early 1970s, it retains a grainy feel throughout the film. As opposed to being a distraction within the story, this has the effect of making the experience more intimate. The shots have an almost home-video quality, making viewers feel as though they are truly a part of what they are watching.
Contrary to most of the concert films, Blank shot it from within the stage, focusing largely on the audience reactions instead of the performances in their own right. An interesting aspect of this is to compare the crowds with those from today’s live shows: it’s immediately noticeable the lack of fans holding cameras and mobiles. At the same time, this within-the-stage perspective makes the viewer feel part of the performance, watching the joy of the fans below.
The 40-year delay in releasing A Poem Is a Naked Person could beg the question of who it is likely to appeal to in this day and age. The obvious answer here would be Leon Russell’s fans, for whom it will be a long-awaited glimpse into the life of the star. However, this is arguably one of the best music documentaries in recent years, and anybody who loves music will doubtlessly find some part to enjoy.
A Poem Is a Naked Person is released in selected cinemas on 8th July 2016.
Watch the trailer for A Poem Is a Naked Person here: