How to Smell a Rose: A Visit with Ricky Leacock in Normandy–Poignant Documentary

Kino Lorber bows the U.S. theatrical premiere of How to Smell a Rose: A Visit with Ricky Leacock in Normandy August 12, at New York’s Film Forum.

Ricky Leacock, Al Maysles, Robert Gardner, Robert Drew, Les Blank, the cohort that invented cinema verité and made numerous brilliant documentaries, is passing away.

Thus, the timing and context could not have been better for the feature, directed by Blank and Gina Leibrecht, in which one legendary figure visits with another.

Les Blank’s warm and moving portrait of Leacock and partner Valerie Lalonde in France includes many clips of Leacock’s movies, dating back to his earliest film, CANARY BANANAS, made at age 14 on his father’s Canary Island plantation.

Offering poignant insights, Leacock recalls his cinematic triumphs (shooting Flaherty’s LOUISIANA STORY, filming Leonard Bernstein in Israel), while offering side, often random remarks about why he quit drinking, or quoting Escoffier on the making of a perfect bouillon.

HOW TO SMELL A ROSE is complemented by the Leacock-Joyce Chopra classic, HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY, on the 1963 birth of the Fischer quintuplets in Aberdeen, South Dakota.

The filmmakers depict the media circus (Saturday Evening Post, Ladies’ Home Journal, ABC News, etc.) that descends upon Andrew and Mary Ann Fischer and their five new babies.
Ultimately, HOW TO SMELL A ROS goes way beyond of a showcase of one filmmaker’s admiration and respect for another. It is a testament to the directors’ vision that the docu is intimate yet rigorously made, replete with personal observation yet never neglectful of the briader historical and cultural contexts.

Running time: 65 minutes.

Produced and directed by Les Blank and Gina Leibrecht.

Camera: Blank and Leibrecht.

Edited by Leibrecht. Featuring Ricky Leacock, Valerie Lalonde, and Blank.

A Kino Lorber release.


Running time: 26 mins

Co-directed by Richard Leacock and Joyce Chopra.

Produced by Leacock Pennebaker.

Narrator: Ed McCurdy.

A Pennebaker Hegedus Films Release.