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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Salesman (1968)

David and Albert Maysles during the filming of Salesman
(Forbes, credit Associated Press)
no copyright infringement intended

An almost hallucinatory piece of cinéma vérité that needs a second watch to get its message and everything. And that is because Salesman is subtly but unbearably depressing. A quiet desperation is pervasive throughout the movie, almost at a subliminal level. A group of four door to door salesmen is followed in their daily business. A business implying a network of bosses, salesmen, prospects. A network where nobody's innocent: the prospects struggle to find reasons to reject the offer, the salesmen push relentlessly to perfect the sales, the bosses press the salesmen to get results. And all this takes place in the Catholic universe: they try to sell expensive Catholic editions of the Bible to lower income families of Catholic parishioners. Spirituality and business interlaced, or rather business pushing aside spirituality. Under the spiritual skin a Darwinian struggle, where the weak ones are eliminated: aging parishioners cannot find any more the energy to reject the offers, aging salesmen cannot find the energy to place their Bibles any more. One of the salesmen, the eldest of them, is on the brink of loosing the battle: for those who fail the American Dream shows its nightmarish truth.

Paradoxically this depressing movie carries also something like a charm: a time capsule bringing the today's viewer back to a bygone era, the wonderful 1960's, when we were so young, ladies were wearing their curlers with genuineness and gentlemen were playing cards with open pleasure, sales were made door to door, the Internet wasn't yet born, you talked with your sweetie via a phone operator, people were not afraid to invite strangers inside the house, faith was still a thing people cared about, the convertibles were so big and Gosh, so vintage! And everybody smoked, everybody, all the time! You can guess I watched it twice.

Salesman, 1968
produced by Albert and David Maysles
based on an idea by David Maysles
directed by Albert and David Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin
cinematographed by Albert Maysles
edited by David Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin
(video by Vusal Azizov)

(Albert and David Maysles)



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