The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins

This is a 1970 short documentary by Les Blank about Lightnin’ Hopkins, a blues guitarist from Texas.

Les just follows Lightnin’ around as he does his thing, and films him singing the blues. There is no narration at all, just Lightnin’ talking about what the blues means to him, and tells the occasional story. One story he told was of his car breaking down at the side of a road in North Carolina. A policeman turns up and tells him he can’t be parked there, but Lightnin’ says the car can’t move. The policeman takes him to the town butcher, who is also the local judge. Upon hearing his story (with Lightnin’ getting a bit sassy), the judge fines him $500 ($3500 in today’s money) on the spot. Lightnin’ laughed it all off after telling the story, and said black men should never go to North Carolina.

There is great footage of people going about their own business in the dusty old town they live in. There is also footage at a rodeo, and at a BBQ where Lightnin’ entertains.

From Uncut: Although initially keen on the idea, Lightnin’ Hopkins soon tired of the process of documentary film-making. After playing ten songs for Blank and his camera, after only one day’s filming, Hopkins ordered Blank back to California. Whereupon, with the camera off, the men began playing cards. Blank lost, and lost again. The more money he lost to his subject, in fact, the more Hopkins began to see the virtue of keeping the young documentarian around.

Very simple film making, but it is fascinating to watch, and has plenty of blues.

Date watched: December 21st
Score: 7.5/10
Film count 2018: 85