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Salesman
Albert Maysles Film-maker
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The film "Salesman" is a film which was noted by Norman Mailer as a film that probably tells more about America than any other film. And, and when you come to think of it, four door-to-door bible salesmen knocking on, at random, on the doors of people, women who happen to be home during the day, housewives, the interaction between the salesman who is, who is prepared to say the right thing and, and answer every question so as to make a sale, right, and the housewife who, who is an innocent person, most times eager to help the guy out but at the same time falling victim to buying something that she otherwise wouldn't have bought or even needed. Because the bible in this case is a book that is sold for the illustrations, for the quality of the binding and so forth, and not really for, for the spiritual value. And so that in that film it all kind of comes together; an understanding of what's going on in our culture. The buying, the selling, the, the salesperson who is a- who is a, what shall I say, a symbol of the capitalist system in that- in that he's out on his own and when he knocks on that door, if he makes a sale or he doesn't it's up to him. It's the epitome of the rugged individualist that's always been the key character in Capitalist society. So that at the same time the main character who emerges in the film, Paul Brennan, is somebody that, as a fellow human being, you just have to connect with even though he's not- and maybe because- not successful as a salesperson- and maybe because he's not successful as a salesperson but is much more successful as a human being than his fellow salespeople. Right? Those ironies and paradoxes represented in the life of this man, you, you really connect with this person so much so that when we finished the film we weren't able to get it on television. Programmers who would see the film thought it was too depressing. They weren't used to a film- in this case, a revolutionary film- the first documentary to be not just a feature length film but a feature because, because of the drama represented in the life, especially of this Paul Brennan, the main character. Right? So it couldn't get shown on television, not for over 30 years of trying to get it on television. We finally got it on PBS.

Albert Maysles (1926-2015) known for his important documentaries on Muhammad Ali, Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles, pioneered the documentary style known as Direct Cinema. He helped create techniques still widely used in modern documentary production, as well as many of the techniques used in reality TV.

Listeners: Tamara Tracz Rebekah Maysles Sara Maysles

Tamara Tracz is a writer and filmmaker based in London.

Rebekah Maysles, daughter of Albert Maysles, is an artist living between New York and Philadelphia. She has her own line of clothing, Blackberryrose, and co-runs the store Sodafine in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, New York, a vintage and handmade store that sells clothing, books and other products made by artists.

Sara Maysles, daughter of Albert Maysles, is currently doing her BA in East Asian Studies at Columbia University, and working as an Archivist of the photographs and photographic material at Maysles Films Inc., Albert‚s film production company. She spent ten months out of two years working with Tibetan refugees at a center in Nepal, and continues to travel back and forth between America and Asia.

Tags: Salesman, USA, PBS, Norman Mailer

Duration: 3 minutes, 42 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008