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Rat­ing: NNN Like Werner Her­zog, whose an­tics he has cap­tured in Werner Her­zog Eats His Own Shoe and Bur­den Of Dreams, Les Blank seems ob­sessed with the idea of “ec­static truth”: the po­etry that bub­bles up in doc­u­men­tary cin­ema when dusty data cracks open, re­veal­ing some deeper truth that fact can­not con­tain.

Blank lo­cates this most in­ef­fa­ble truth in his por­traits of three artists: the jazz trum­peter of 1964’s Dizzy Gille­spie, the Texas blues­man of 1968’s The Blues Ac­cordin’ To Light­nin’ Hop­kins and pop artist Gerry Gax­i­ola in 1994’s The Maestro: King Of The Cow­boy Artists. By to­day’s stan­dards, Blank’s search for truth in black mu­si­cal tra­di­tions feels a bit prickly, re­flect­ing the worst as­pects of the white quest for authenticity in the Amer­i­can black ex­pe­ri­ence.

From the same van­tage point, The Maestro stands out. Blank is fas­ci­nated by Gax­i­ola – an artist who never sells his art, a cow­boy crooner who can’t re­ally sing – be­cause of his var­i­ous in­au­then­tic af­fec­ta­tions. As with Gille­spie and Hop­kins, Blank treats Gax­i­ola as a piece of liv­ing per­for­mance art. This seems to be a thread that con­nects the three mae­stros, all men whose lives feel in­sep­a­ra­ble from their art, their art in­sep­a­ra­ble from the truth. JS Apr 30, 9 pm, Innis Town Hall.

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