How to Smell a Rose Screen 5 articles

How to Smell a Rose

2014

How to Smell a Rose Poster
  • How to Smell a Rose is a characteristic Les Blank production, marked by its passionate handling of well-selected ingredients and fixated on the joys of food, conversation, and art. Closing out a career-long focus on such essentials, Blank's posthumous film ends up being as much about himself as his subject, serving as a definitive reflection on the work of two great directors and the specific slices of cinema they so fruitfully cultivated.

  • It’s evident in the excerpts from Mr. Leacock’s films shown here, and from observing Mr. Leacock himself, that he had the avid eye and affable awareness for catching the right moments wherever and however they came. So did Mr. Blank: These may be tamer environs than in most of his films, but one fantastic shot here rests on Mr. Leacock’s alert eyes, darting back and forth, in his backyard.

  • Where A Poem Is a Naked Person exemplifies Blank’s free-associative, poetic construction, How to Smell a Rose is a bit more straightforward, even operating as a primer, complete with historical and contextual intertitles, for those unfamiliar with Leacock’s extremely influential work. The wandering approach is missed, but at least Leacock’s reminiscences have an air of the casual, filmed on late-'90s vintage digital video while a pot steams in the kitchen and the dog scampers around the yard.

  • The result is quite a ramble: Leacock talks about how equipment influences filmmaking, the making of a custard and the wanderings of his cat. Through it all, happily, his company is a pleasure.

  • In a moment when documentary film seems back under the thrall of all things cinema vérité (setting aside those trendy chimeras, hybrids, and what-have-yous), How to Smell a Rose is a terrific reminder that vérité is not merely the avoidance of interviewing subjects on camera, the eschewal of tripods and lighting, or acting the proverbial “fly on the wall.”