Leon Russell on Lost Doc: "Watching Yourself Sometimes Makes You Want to Go to Bed for a Week"

Randy Perry
Leon Russell (center) took part in a Q&A with director Les Blank's son Harrod and editor Maureen Gosling that was emceed by T Bone Burnett.

'A Poem Is a Naked Person' is finally heading to theaters after four decades.

After four decades undercover, A Poem Is a Naked Person saw the light of day Wednesday when Cinefamily screened the famously unreleased Les Blank documentary at downtown L.A.'s Theatre at Ace Hotel.

The doc focuses on Leon Russell and a diverse collection of friends (Willie Nelson, JJ Cale and George Jones among them) recording an album in northeast Oklahoma between 1972-74, but the film encompasses everything from a boa constrictor eating a small chicken to the demolition of a Tulsa landmark. To say the film reflects a stoned outlook would be an understatement.

"He really caught that early '70s time period and the weird brew of ingredients that go in rock 'n' roll," film producer Ron Yerxa said at the event.

The screening was followed by a Q&A with Russell, editor Maureen Gosling and Blank's son Harrod that was emceed by T Bone Burnett. Why the film hasn't been commercially shown in 40 years was alluded to by Russell, who produced and co-financed the doc, by saying "watching yourself on film sometimes makes you want to go to bed for a week."

What wasn't discussed was why Russell kept the film out of theaters all these years, but he did say, "I thought I’d be in a movie and look like James Dean, and I ended up looking like Jimmy Dean."

Now 73, Russell has had a change of heart, and the film is set for a commercial release. Asked at the Ace Hotel rooftop after-party what was his main thought while watching the film, Russell said: "That I'm still alive."

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