Directors / Screenplay / Cinematography / Sound / Editors: Les Blank & Maureen Gosling
Production Co.: Flower Films
Music: Clifton Chenier & the Chenier Zydeco-Blues Band
Clifton Chenier
his family and friends
N.B. technical credits for many of Les Blank’s films are deliberately vague: Les is usually cited as the director of this film and was probably the cameraman; Maureen Gosling is credited as editor on several other of his films and presumably worked in that capacity on this one. The important thing, however, is that her contribution was considered by Blank important enough to warrant the joint ‘a film by’ credit.
54 minutes
16 mm
English & Cajun
Part two of Dry Wood and Hot Pepper. See entries for the diptych and Dry Wood.
- A.L.
Whatever you is, be that! If you're old and ugly, be old and ugly! Be like you is, that's right!... Have Mercy, tous les jours n'est pas la même chose! [every day ain't the same!]
- Clifton Chenier
Blank is without doubt the most important musical documentarist working today. His film on... Clifton Chenier [is an] extraodrinary work - a deeply personal record of a vanishing way of life...
- Michael Goodwin, Take One, 1/77
Blank's best moments convey a sense of down-home, ramshackle poetry: Clifton Chenier jamming with his cousin on a tumbledown porch while hogs root through the yard...
- J. Hoberman, American Film, 12/80
A penetrating look into the life of Louisiana zydeco-music legend Clifton Chenier. Filmmaker Les Blank follows the Cajun-French accordionist through the sweaty dance halls and along the streets and into the homes of family and friends. Another excellent documentary from Blank.
- Mick Martin & Marsha Potter, Video Movie Guide 1998, New York, 1997
Hot Pepper plunges the viewer deep into the music of Clifton Chenier and its sources in the surroundings of rural and urban Louisiana. The great French accordionist mixes rock and blues with his unique version of 'Zydeco' music, a pulsating combination of Cajun French and African undertones. In addition to scenes of Clifton belting it out at sweaty dance halls, the film winds his music through the bayous and byways of the countryside (some of Blank's most stunning photography!) and into the streets and homes of his people. The off-hand folk wisdom and random jive that Blank loves so much is here in bounteous profusion.
- Michael Goodwin, City Magazine
Clifton’s full but relaxed lifestyle was caught sympathetically on film by director Les Blank in Hot Pepper. Clearly a star among his own people, Chenier is seen with friends drinking beer, indulging in back-porch accordion jams, just laughing and talking; there is also fine footage taken in clubs and bars, and views of the Chenier Zydeco-Blues Band station wagon hurtling along a highway into a beautiful bayou sunset to the unmistakable sound of his music.
- John Broven, South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous, Gretna, 1987
Hot Pepper, also filmed in the southeastern part of the state, is even more moving [than Dry Wood]. "Whatever you is, be that," says a man at a barber shop in the film, and through Blank's loving film, we see what Clifton Chenier is: a talented black musician with roots in the countryside around Lafayette. We see him as the star that he is making people happy at clubs in the Lafayette area... But we also see him in much more personal scenes. There is the attempt to communicate with his 108-year-old grandmother who speaks only Cajun French, and there is the scene shot outside on a barren winter day when he sings a song about going home to see his mother and then explains that his died before he could sing this expression of love to her. Blank emphasises pleasure in his films by using short scenes, fast dissolves and rapid editing. But in Hot Pepper the stationary camera is held for long close-up takes of Clifton and his grandmother, for instance, without a musical background. The effect is that we share grief and old age, yet are warmed by the comfort of her traditions.
- Andrew Horton, 'A Well Spent Life: Les Blank's Celebrations on Film', Film Quarterly, Spring 1982