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Even though the days of double-digit rents have passed, Mr. Maysles still adheres to the original Drew Associates principles -- waiting and nonintervention. His position is not fashionable with the film makers who came of age in the 's and saw documentaries as a way to convey their messages. But how objective can a film maker be?

Something as simple as the part of the body the camera focuses on long shot? And who believes the effect of a camera's presence can be dismissed? Maysles admits. I don't interview people, for instance. If you ask a question, that determines the answer.

The direct cinema of David and Albert Maysles (eBook, ) [quzajalylavo.tk]

Making a film isn't finding the answer to a question; it's trying to capture life as it is, so the audience can say, 'Oh, my God, I'm right there, and I didn't have to make a film to see it. Corra says, "Albert has a spiritual faith that life is going to unfold before him. He believes that with enough patience and time and care telling moments are eventually going to happen, and we will be there to capture them.


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In his most idealistic mind, our films would be an assemblage of these pure moments that just sort of occur and are captured on film. Some of Maysles Films' documentaries don't fit the purist mold, like their three HBO specials and best-selling home videos that take dirtysomething looks behind the scenes of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issues. Pennebaker explains. And what is the experience behind the camera?

If you do it long enough, that face starts to fill you with a certain pleasure. It's not unlike falling in love with somebody. But love is a two-way street. What makes people permit a camera to record their private moments? See Mr. Jagger watching the Maysles' footage of a man in a green suit being stabbed to death while the singer was snarling out "Sympathy for the Devil. Maysles says, "and the therapist said that between the urge to conceal and the urge to reveal, the urge to reveal is always stronger.

In , after his brother's death, Mr. Maysles brought two new partners to Maysles Films, the film makers Ms. Froemke her work with Mr. Maysles has earned four Emmys and Mr. In both his company's reality-based commercials and its documentaries, Mr. Maysles sees a through line. Corra agrees. He doesn't have a painterly quality or the things that are often attributed to great directors of photography. There's a way Al goes around the room and sees all the characters, and after, you feel like you've had a really intimate experience with all of them. Rather than the contemporary documentary, which is largely scripted and set up, the Maysles brothers pride themselves on the reality of their work.

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They simply created work they felt revealed something to their audience. In their most famous works, such as Salesman and Grey Gardens , the Maysles brothers explore inherently American ideas of capitalism and wealth. In Salesman , the brothers follow traveling bible salesmen as they attempt to sell their product door-to-door. While the film never explicitly states anything about capitalism or the American Dream, it somewhat clearly shows the struggles of Americans trying to make it. Upon release, the film received acclaim for its social documentation of Americans the typical person rarely thinks about.

Grey Gardens , arguably the most well known Maysles film of all time, follows the everyday lives of two uber wealthy women leading reclusive lives in East Hampton, NY. Again, the brothers show the world the lives of Americans who are rarely thought of. In the film, the two reclusive women live in shockingly poor conditions. She and her daughter refused to leave their Grey Gardens estate, even though the mansion was unmaintained. Talk to almost any documentary filmmaker of the last 40 years who's made work of any note, and there's an excellent chance they studied or worked with Albert Maysles.

Barbara Kopple , Joe Berlinger , the late Bruce Sinofsky and many other filmmakers got their starts, or a huge boost, through Maysles Films. Al was also incredibly generous about sharing directorial credit with people whose contributions in specific areas of a given film—such as camerawork or editing—helped give the work its personality or its point. Albert Maysles he didn't believe that a person had to have attended film school to be a good filmmaker. In fact, the company went out of its way to nurture people who had distinctive world views or fascinating stories but had never gotten anywhere near a film set before—particularly women and filmmakers of color.

They wanted people who were interested in people, and in everyday life. In , I got the bright idea of pitching Al on doing a documentary about the history of the Direct Cinema filmmakers, including him and his brother, Robert Drew, Richard Leacock, D. Pennebaker and Frederick Wiseman whom Al never considered a true Direct Cinema filmmaker; they always had issues with each other, apparently.

I told him my idea at a party and he got excited and asked me to come up to his new headquarters in Harlem to discuss it in detail.


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I did, but within a few minutes he said, with his customary sweetness, "This sounds like a wonderful idea for a movie, but I don't want to participate in it because I'm doing my own autobiographical film. I don't want to scoop myself, I guess you'd say. But he said that since I'd come all the way up to Harlem from Brooklyn, I should stay and talk a bit, and maybe tell him some of my other ideas.

Direct Cinema: A Visual Essay

I told him about a good one—a documentary series idea I'd developed with my then-girlfriend, a blogger, about a cemetery—and his eyes lit up. And I won't charge you anything! I just want to be a part of it. I felt lightheaded. Albert Maysles! Albert Maysles wanted to shoot my documentary! I couldn't believe it.

I ran around taking meetings at production companies and TV channels, using his involvement as a way to convince people that this thing was going to be amazing. Then I'd email him or leave phone messages about my progress. This went on for a few weeks.

Al never got back to me. After a while I started to get worried. Finally I called one of his colleagues at Maysles Films. She said, politely but with evident weariness, "I hate to have to tell you this, but Al is doing so many different things right now that the odds of him actually shooting your documentary for you are not good.

I think you should find somebody else, honestly.

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She said, "Oh, no—I think if Al said he thought it was a good idea, then he meant it, and you should still try to to do it. But you've got to understand, unfortunately, part of working with Al is having conversations like this one. He's so enthusiastic about other people's projects, and he loves younger people so much, that every good idea he hears about, he tells the the filmmaker he wants to work on it.

And he means it! But if he helped all the people he wanted to help, he'd never get any of his own work done. The problem is, he wants to be a part of everything. This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr Albert Maysles believed the perfect was the enemy of the good, and his work embraced this idea. He was almost perversely proud of the fact that his films, solo or with his brother David, were rough around the edges, that sometimes they missed moments, and sometimes the picture or sound were a little rough, or flat-out bad for a few seconds here or there.

Movie Poster of the Week: The Posters of the Maysles Brothers

It was part of the aesthetic. Albert Maysles believed documentary filmmakers had a duty to show their subjects behaving in routine, ordinary ways, and being happy, even when the subject matter was basically grim. It's like people are following Tolstoy's misguided statement that all happy families are alike in their own way, but every unhappy family is different. That makes people conclude, 'Well, why bother with the happy ones?