By Joe McElhaney
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Albert Maysles has created probably the most influential documentaries of the postwar interval. Such motion pictures as Salesman, Gimme take care of, and gray Gardens proceed to generate excessive debate concerning the ethics and aesthetics of the documentary shape. during this in-depth research, Joe McElhaney deals a unique realizing of the historic relevance of Maysles.
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Additional info for Albert Maysles
Courtesy of Maysles Films, Inc. of the Maysles brothers’ approach was the relentless present-tenseness of the situations due to the spectator’s lack of access to the past lives of the characters: “‘You are stopped at the wall of skin’” (qtd. in Canby 10). Miller refers to our psychological distance from the characters, but his choice of words, “wall of skin,” also points to the literal flesh on display. Salesman, like much of Maysles, is very much a film about the human figure, albeit human figures encased within raincoats and inexpensive suits, or housewives whose heads are weighed down by enormous hair rollers.
The “religious” feeling about reality and the camera’s ability to record it and the use of the word “love” to describe his empathetic response to his subjects suggests a tie to Bazinian discourses on realism. Even Maysles’s belief in “the contemplation of things as they are” evokes a famous statement made by Rossellini, that exemplary filmmaker for André Bazin: “‘Things are there. ’” (qtd. in Gallagher 485). At the same time, as the history of cinema and indeed the history of realism in general have shown, an investment in the real invariably entails a fascination with its apparent polar opposite: the false, the artificial, the constructed, the unreal.
But in different ways this selling is also strongly tied to issues of performance in which selling becomes a form of theater. Of these three films about “hustling,” Salesman occupies an especially significant position. Released in 1969, it was not only officially the Maysles brothers’ first feature-length theatrical film; it was also an attempt to break into commercial channels of exhibition through their new brand of nonfiction cinema. But these ambitions would pose particular problems for the brothers in terms of the film’s reception.
Albert Maysles by Joe McElhaney