I'd known of director Les Blank by reputation, but until last weekend had never actually seen one of his films. Having been on something of a late 60's / early 70's doc kick recently, binge watching Luis Malle's Phantom India and half-ironically watching Chariots of the Gods (the book frightened me when I read it while camping at Lake Wappapello as a kid), I felt ready to move on to something a little more..."wholesome" isn't the right word. Maybe "soulful". Something smaller scale. More focused. Something cutting a little bit closer to the bone.
I expected the music to be good. Mance Lipscomb is one of the most accomplished and recognizable blues guitarists America has ever produced. What I didn't expect were the almost Wendell Berry-esque themes of longing, change, and a beautiful simplicity being run over roughshod by what Lipscomb calls our "fast living". Lipscomb was born in the late 1800's. The film was made in 1970. A Well Spent Life is a time capsule within a time capsule. It's both a celebration of folk art and a record of what we lost in the ascendant fevered anti-culture of celebrity. Makes you want to sing along mockingly with Lipscomb at the banal figures who currently loom in our public consciousness: "You aint so big / you just tall, that's just about all"