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Les Blank, a filmmaker with an eye for the eccentric, dies at 77

(Reuters) - Filmmaker Les Blank, whose documentaries explored U.S. jazz, polka and Cajun music and also delved into more eccentric subjects including gap-toothed women and Chinese tea, died on Sunday, his son said.

Blank died at his home in Berkeley, California, from bladder cancer, Harrod Blank said. He was 77.

Blank might be most widely remembered for his 1982 documentary "Burden of Dreams", which chronicled the making of the epic "Fitzcarraldo" by German filmmaker Werner Herzog, a movie about a man determined to haul a steamship over a mountain in a South American jungle.

He won a British Academy Award for "Burden of Dreams", which won accolades for its depiction of Herzog and his obsession to recreate the attempt without special effects.

Blank produced portraits of jazz and blues greats Dizzy Gillespie and Lightnin' Hopkins, and a range of other American music performers including the "King" of Zydeco, Clifton Chenier.

His documentary "In Heaven There is No Beer?" won a special jury recognition at the 1985 Sundance Film Festival, which called it "a warm and funny documentary about the polka and the people who love it, a playful and uncondescending musical treat meant for dancing feet".

For his 1987 documentary "Gap-Toothed Women", Blank interviewed model and actress Lauren Hutton and former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor among others about what it means to be a gap-toothed woman.

Another film, a 2007 documentary titled "All in This Tea" explored Chinese tea and followed an American tea connoisseur traveling through parts of China.

(Reporting by Kevin Gray; Editing by David Bailey and Pravin Char)

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