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By Joe McElhaney

Albert Maysles has created the most influential documentaries of the postwar interval. Such motion pictures as Salesman, Gimme Shelter, and Grey Gardens proceed to generate extreme debate concerning the ethics and aesthetics of the documentary shape. during this in-depth learn, Joe McElhaney deals a singular figuring out of the historic relevance of Maysles. by means of heavily concentrating on Maysles's expressive use of his digicam, fairly in terms of the filming of the human determine, this e-book situates Maysles's movies inside not just documentary movie background yet movie historical past more often than not, arguing for his or her broad-ranging value to either narrative movie and documentary cinema. whole with an attractive interview with Maysles and an in depth comparability of the version 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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Beyond these extreme examples, though, the Maysles brothers often play a game of presence and absence in their films, with images of them filming sometimes being briefly reflected in mirrors or other reflective surfaces; or we may hear their voices (mainly David’s) off camera speaking to their subjects. ) Albert Maysles’s description of his relationship with his subjects as akin to that of a conversational partner suggests that he sees himself as considerably more than a passive or neutral observer of spontaneous, unfolding action.

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. While their meaning is not infinite, the diverse range of responses highlights the need for careful attention to the formal structure of the films and to the nature of their reception over the years, especially as the reception of some of them has shifted over time.

Whether the cinema of figures such as Maysles prepared for this society or whether it is up to something fundamentally different is a topic too complex to address here. But certainly the theatrical and performative strain running throughout much of direct cinema has, for better or worse, blurred the boundaries between private and public, between the natural and the theatrical. My aim here is not to denounce this blurring as a violation of documentary ethics but instead to treat it as one of a number of structuring elements at work in these films.

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