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Albert Maysles by Joe McElhaney

By Joe McElhaney

Albert Maysles has created one of the most influential documentaries of the postwar interval. Such movies as Salesman, Gimme Shelter, and Grey Gardens proceed to generate excessive debate concerning the ethics and aesthetics of the documentary shape. during this in-depth examine, Joe McElhaney deals a unique knowing of the historic relevance of Maysles. by way of heavily targeting Maysles's expressive use of his digital camera, really relating to the filming of the human determine, this ebook situates Maysles's movies inside not just documentary movie background yet movie heritage quite often, arguing for his or her broad-ranging significance to either narrative movie and documentary cinema. entire with an interesting interview with Maysles and an in depth comparability of the variation releases of his documentary at the Beatles (What's occurring: The Beatles within the U.S.A. and The Beatles: the 1st U.S. Visit), this paintings is a pivotal learn of an important filmmaker.

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While this attempt to reproduce realistic details is also apparent in the Maysles brothers’ earlier films, the earlier films were less obviously tied to traditional narrative and character development and were almost wholly preoccupied with the world of the rich and famous. Showman and Meet Marlon Brando are shot in a handheld direct-cinema style, but they have an aura of glamor to them, partly due to the presence of movie stars (in addition to Loren and Novak in Showman, we see Deborah Kerr, Tony Randall, Burt Lancaster, and Stanley Baker—and footage of Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty was shot but not used in the final cut) but also due to the ways in which they are filmed.

Instead, the film is intended to raise questions more than it is meant to supply answers. Mamber supports this thesis when he writes that “Maysles films do not attempt to ‘hide’ a message in a surface of uninterpreted observation; they simply refuse to spoon-feed interpretation when the material itself is open to consideration from a number of points of view.  . [N]one of the thinking is done for you in the form of narration or an easily followed plot” (Mamber 147). indd 16 Albert Maysles 1/12/09 4:05:30 PM these films (especially Salesman, Gimme Shelter, and Grey Gardens) are relatively “open” texts.

The human subjects, while taken from the “real world,” begin to fuse with and resemble figures out of myth and fairy tale. “Fiction triumphs over the real, or rather it gives it its true dimension, relating it back to archetypes and constantly recalling the moral of the fable” (Comolli 228). Such a paradoxical experience of a documentary film is hardly surprising. It taps into one of the most persistent myths about the cinematic image as it attempts to capture the reality in front of its lens: namely, that the camera’s powers of indexicality are so strong and immediate that they transform their subjects into something extraordinary and unreal.

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