Criterion Collection/Photofest
April 07, 2013 at 12:00 PM EDT

Les Blank, the documentary director who followed fellow filmmaker Werner Herzog to record his devotion to art (Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe in 1979) as well as his exotic descent into obsession (Burden of Dreams in 1982), died Sunday at age 77, according to the The New York Times.

Leslie Harrod Blank Jr.’s own obsessions included a rapturous appreciation of regional music and cuisine, which echoed in a filmography that included The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins in 1969; Chicken Real in 1970; Garlic Is as Good as 10 Mothers in 1980; and Ry Cooder And The Moula Banda Rhythm Aces in 1988;. Blank, born in Tampa, Fla. on the eve of Thanksgiving Day 1935, never became a name that would start bidding wars in Hollywood, but his gentle essayist approach made him an anthropologist with the gentle touch of an erudite tour guide.

“I’ve seen a lot of cameramen go in and treat the subjects like so many guinea pigs,” Blank said of his appraoch in 1979. “I think the people pick up on my very protective feelings toward them, and they aren’t self-conscious about what they do or say, and they try to show the inner light about themselves that I find so attractive.”

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