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Salesman (Criterion Collection) (1969)

Cast: Paul Brennan, Jamie Baker
Director: Albert Maysles, Charlotte Mitchell Zwerin, David Maysles
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Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Criterion
Genre: Documentary, Criterion Collection
Running Time: 91 min.
Subtitles: English
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One of the most well respected of the cinema verite documentaries of the 1960's, this non-fiction film follows a group of real-life Bible salesmen for the Mid-American Bible Company as they ply their wares. The central figure in the film is Irish-American Paul Brennan, a 56-year-old of great wit who traipses door to door in an effort to sell the good book to Catholic housewives who really can't afford to buy but don't want to appear rude to a Church-sanctioned representative. The documentary, a collaboration by the Maysles brothers, also follows Brennan as he shares war stories with fellow Bible peddlers and attends management and sales meetings. The Maysles' next film was their classic documentary of the Rolling Stones fateful 1969 tour, Gimme Shelter (1970). ~ Karl Williams, All Movie Guide

As a sort of followup to his recent interview with D.A. Pennebaker, David D'Arcy speaks with another giant of the American documentary, Albert Maysles. With his late brother, David, Maysles has made some essentials of the genre - Salesman, Gimme Shelter, Grey Gardens - and he's even now working on several films all at once. Full article >>

GreenCine Member Reviews

The Life and Death of a Salesman by RJones3 October 21, 2008 - 10:51 AM PDT
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful
This movie may have you wondering how an unpretentious documentary can be so powerful. In getting the movie to the TV market, the makers pitched it to a PBS executive. They thought they had a sale when the executive was discovered in tears while viewing the movie. No, in his opinion it was just too raw. Albert and David Maysles invented unobtrusive techniques for their new genre, called direct cinema, but Charlotte Zwerin deserves equal billing for boiling ten hours of film down to a coherent hour and a half. In its unobtrusive way the movie makes a strong statement about capitalism and religion in America. It is a case study for "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism" even though the salesmen are primarily Irish-Catholic. If you don't take advantage, it's your fault.

A Landmark film by sandcrane October 24, 2006 - 12:51 PM PDT
4 out of 4 members found this review helpful
I saw Salesman once, probably 25-30 years ago, and I never forgot it. I figured I'd never get to see it again. When I joined Greencine it was the first movie I rented; what an amazing documentary! It was even better now, given the additional value of time perspective and age, than I remembered. A great sort of 'time capsule' of the late sixties; How enormous the changes have been. I'm not sure if the Maysles Bros. created a new genre with "Salesman", I'm not enough of a film historian to say--but I know it ignited my love of documentary film, in the same way Truman Capote's book "In Cold Blood" got me into True Crime books. Definately an exceptional film.

glen garry come to life by alexjb January 28, 2005 - 3:48 PM PST
2 out of 5 members found this review helpful
i actually suspect that Mamet penned GlenGarry Glen Ross after watching Salesman. these real-life salesmen map pretty well to Mamet's- especially the guy who turns out to be the 'main character'. just like Jack Lemmon's character, he's a salesman past his prime, fighting to hang on and whistle in the dark. he's both likable and pitiable as he is forced to realize that he's lost his mojo.

there's a mildly interesting interview with the directors included in the DVD, and though one of them is rather pomous and argumentative, it does add a little to the film experience.

despite being 'cinema direct' as the filmmakers like to call it (meaning as minimally intrusive to the subjects as possible), the film is edited well to flow smoothly, and even to build to something of a climax.

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GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 7.50)
240 Votes
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This list is from's article about Paramont Theatre's Summer Classic Film series. I thought their list and brief descriptions were pretty good so I put it up for all to enjoy. (Of course there isn't room for all the classics on one list.)

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