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Meet the Filmmaker: Al Maysles

Meet the Filmmaker: Al Maysles


Date: Thursday, October 20, 2011
Location: NY NATAS, 1375 Broadway (between 37thand 38thStreets), Suite 2103
Reception: 6:00-6:30 PM ~ Program: 6:30-8:00 PM
*Free to NY NATAS Members!
$15 for those without current NY NATAS membership.
Over the years I have presented many films in my “Meet The Filmmaker” series, but this film is very special.  It was made in 1969 by cinematographer Al Maysles and his brother David, as the soundman. This documentary portrays a “slice of life” rarely seen today.  When the film was first released, Vincent Canby, film critic for The New York Times, lauded the film and wrote, "...this documentary feature is about four door-to-door Bible salesmen who move horizontally through the capitalistic dream. It's such a fine, pure picture of a small section of American life that I can't imagine it ever seeming irrelevant, either as a social document or as one of the best examples of what's called cinema vérité or direct cinema...It is filmed, photographed and recorded with an extraordinarily mobile camera and sound equipment. It was then edited and carefully shaped into a kind of cinematic mural of faces, words, motel rooms, parlors, kitchens, streets, television images, and radio music."
The four men have given each other nicknames, all describing their sales approach: The Rabbit, The Badger, The Gipper and The Bull. We mostly hear from The Badger (Paul Brennan) as he tries to pull himself out of a sales slump. The leads that most of the salesmen follow end up being poor Catholic families who can't even afford a dollar a week payment, but are at times talked into it anyway by the sales tactics these men employ.
The Maysles give us an absolutely fascinating look at the world of door-to-door sales, but it is also a disturbing door to open. The pressure that the salesmen use when trying to sell the product, and the struggle that the prospects exhibit, is difficult to watch. In one scene, Brennan goes to the door of a recent customer to pick up their down payment for another of the salesmen and pretty much refuses to take 'No' for an answer, telling her that he's the salesman's boss and is going to have to dock him a fee if she cancels the sale, eventually guilting this family who clearly cannot take on another installment payment into going on with the sale. On the other hand, we also see sales meetings where the pressure is turned on the salesmen themselves, so it's clear that the threats of unemployment are a definite motivator. 

About Albert Maysles 
"… the dean of documentary filmmakers….” - The New York Times
“Albert Maysles is a pioneer of Direct Cinema who was, along with his late brother David, one of the first to make nonfiction feature films, where the drama of life unfolds as if without scripts, sets, interviews or narration.  Albert made his first film, Psychiatry in Russia in 1955 as he transitioned from psychologist to filmmaker.  Among his more than 40 films are some of the most iconic works in documentary history, including Salesman, Gimme Shelter and Grey Gardens.  More recently, Albert and filmmaking partner Bradley Kaplan co-directed the award-winning film, Muhammad and Larry (2009).  In addition, Albert and Bradley have co-directed a number of highly acclaimed projects, including Close-Up: Portraits (2008), Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! (2009), More Than A Paycheck: Hardest Working Americans (2010), and Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I (2011).  Albert has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, two Peabody Awards, three Emmy® Awards, six Lifetime Achievement Awards, the Columbia DuPont Award, and the award for best cinematography at Sundance for Lalee’s Kin: The Legacy of Cotton (2001), which was also nominated for an Academy Award.  Eastman Kodak has saluted him as one of the world's 100 finest cinematographers.
Please RSVP via email to reserve a seat.Use film title“Salesman”in subject line of email. Space is limited.
Produced & Moderated by Sumner Jules Glimcher.


Thu, Oct. 20, 2011
1 p.m. - 3 p.m.
(GMT-0400) US/Eastern


1375 Broadway
New York, NY 10018