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Salesman

Paul Brennan , Charles McDevitt , Albert Maysles , Charlotte Zwerin    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Product Description

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Arguably the best American documentary of the 1960s, Salesman was the pivotal film of the "direct cinema" movement championed by such influential filmmakers as Richard Leacock, D.A. Pennebaker, and (in this case) the Maysles brothers and their longtime collaborator Charlotte Zwerin. It catapulted Albert and David Maysles to international fame (later intensified with Gimme Shelter), and it remains the most powerful document of working-class America in the post-Kennedy era. As compelling as any fictional drama, the film follows four salesmen (nicknamed the Badger, the Gipper, the Rabbit, and the Bull, based on their particular on-the-job attributes) from Boston to Florida as they struggle to sell lavishly illustrated Bibles to reluctant, blue-collar customers as desperate to keep their money as the salesmen are to take it.

The film focuses on the anguished plight of Paul "the Badger" Brennan, an aging Boston-Irish veteran of the salesman circuit, weary of his job and unable to hide his exhaustion from customers and colleagues alike. "I don't want to seem negative," he says in one of the film's many dreary motel rooms, but Paul is negative, and meager sales reflect his attitude. The resulting portrait serves as a two-way mirror of hard-scrabble American survival, simultaneously humorous and heartbreaking, and so honestly revealing that no performance (with the possible exception of Jack Lemmon's in Glengarry Glen Ross) could ever hope to match its level of richly nuanced humanity. Door-to-door salesmen became dinosaurs with the advent of telemarketing and Internet retail, but Salesman is a timeless masterpiece of cinematic truth. --Jeff Shannon

Product Description

A landmark American documentary, Salesman captures in vivid detail the bygone era of the door-to-door salesman. While laboring to sell a gold-embossed version of the Good Book, Paul Brennan and his colleagues target the beleaguered masses-then face the demands of quotas and the frustrations of life on the road. Following Brennan on his daily rounds, the Maysles discover a real-life Willy Loman, walking the line from hype to despair.

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sad/beautiful? April 7 2002
Format:DVD
The Maysles Bros. did a wonderful job with this film. The b/w photography is sharp and smartly orchestrated making _Salesman_ a must see in my book. Shot with a custom made handheld camera and portable boom mic, _Salesman_ is the story of four door-to-door bible salesmen in the late sixties. The film falls in to the documentary category, though the Maysles have coined their own term for their style of filming: direct cinema.
The "salesmen" themselves are unforgetable; their performances in the homes of anyone who will let them get a foot in the door are fascinating and nerve wracking as you find yourself sympathizing both with the salesmen and the prospective buyers at the same time. It's this dynamic tension that gives the film some real drama. Better than what could have been scripted.
I never saw this film on video so I can't comment on any improvements in quality. But I will say this: the film looks and sounds beautiful on DVD. Also, with the DVD is an interview (mostly pretentious banter revolving around the distinction of "direct cinema"), commentary with the Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin (editor) and film trailers.
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5.0 out of 5 stars "EVERYTHING BUT THE CHINESE FENCE". Sept. 15 2001
Format:DVD
A few months ago I rented the Criterion edition of Gimme Shelter. The DVD included a fascinating preview for another film by the Maysles brothers called SALESMAN. I had never heard of the film but after seeing the preview I had to see it. Much to my dismay SALESMAN was not available, nor does it appear to have ever had an official release on video. Thankfully, Criterion has seen fit to release this long lost American masterpiece. I was completely won over by this tragic but hysterical documentary about door-to-door Bible salesmen. The Maysles brothers focus most of the film on Paul Brennan aka The Badger. Brennan appears to be the the main inspiration for Gil, the unlucky salesman on The Simpsons. Brennan rarely scores a sale and when he doesn't his fellow (and more successful) salesmen have to endure his bizarre Irish rants and mumbled complaints. SALESMAN is full of strange lingo, strong Irish accents, and tons of smoking. I don't smoke but by the end of the film I felt in need of a light. Most of the banter between the Bible sellers and their prospective buyers is very funny. One woman declared that she was the "literal" person of the household. Criterion's presentation is excellent. The disc includes an interview with the two brothers by Jack Kroll. Kroll's interviewing skills are terrible at best. More than once he cuts off the two filmmakers to plunge the shallow depths of his scary thoughts. Even worse he goes on to tell them what they mean to say. The commentary track by Albert Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin is interesting and informative. Highly Recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Peek at Times Gone By Dec 31 2001
Format:DVD
I bought this DVD purely our of curiousity---I never saw it until 30 years after it came out. This is pure Americana--it follows a group of bible salesman starting in Boston and ending in the Miami area. (You will see how much times have changed by the amount of smoking everyone in this film does from start to finish.) Although I never liked door to door salesman, you begin to appreciate the frustrations they encounter on a daily basis as well as their devotion to their craft. I don't think fellows like this exist anymore--they are from a time long gone. It might be an interesting film for students to watch and see a snapshot of America as seen through the eyes of these salesmen.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Albert and David Maysles' big breakthrough... Sept. 13 2001
Format:DVD
Albert and David Maysles' verite documentary Salesman is one of the most interesting documentaries that I've seen. I definitely prefer it to their Grey Gardens which seemed somewhat exploitative to me. Here, they don't seem to be condescending to their subject (a downtrodden Bible salesman) much. The film feels like a real-life Paper Moon, in that the whole setup feels like a scam. You get the impression that the housewives buy the Bibles that are sold out of a sense of guilt or good manners. Still, it's a very interesting film, and it hasn't dated much at all.
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