Q&A with co-director Gina Leibrecht

Just about a decade ago, Les Blank went to France to film Ricky Leacock as he shopped for food, made meals, and talked about his boyhood, his attraction to reality-based moviemaking, his experiences with Robert Flaherty, Robert Drew, D.A. Pennebaker, Ed Pincus, and others, his life with his creative and romantic partner, Valerie Lalonde, and his philosophies of filmmaking and living. The movie that resulted, finished after Blank’s death by his own creative partner, Gina Leibrecht, is a lovely tribute by one great artist to another. “He really uses the camera as a tool to search for something revealing in a simple moment,” Leibrecht once said of Blank, whose films—like Leacock’s—are unassuming, disarming, and build momentum out of seemingly stray details that coalesce into graceful portraits in time. How to Smell a Rose is a joyous film about a man who found harmony between his existence and his art. It is also a moving celebration of cinema verité itself.