Salesman

Overview

Considered one of the best documentaries of all time, Salesman focuses on the lives of four Bible salesmen who will do almost anything to get the Good Book into the homes of people with cash to spare (or not). The Criterion Collection's DVD is superb and easily sells the film's greatness to any unbelievers out there. The high-definition black-and-white transfer is excellent, though much of the film's original graininess is still apparent. The full-screen (1.33:1) picture is sharp, stable, and overall, looks fine....
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DVD (Black & White / Mono / Dolby 5.1)
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Overview

Considered one of the best documentaries of all time, Salesman focuses on the lives of four Bible salesmen who will do almost anything to get the Good Book into the homes of people with cash to spare (or not). The Criterion Collection's DVD is superb and easily sells the film's greatness to any unbelievers out there. The high-definition black-and-white transfer is excellent, though much of the film's original graininess is still apparent. The full-screen (1.33:1) picture is sharp, stable, and overall, looks fine. The mono soundtrack has also been upgraded and also sounds fine. Whatever audio noise detected is from the original recording and not due to the disc's remastering. In terms of extras, the disc offers up an excellent commentary track from filmmakers Albert Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin. Both tracks were recorded separately, but their comments flow nicely and seem unified. Among other things, both filmmakers talk at length about some of the strange, peculiar things some of the people would do in front of the camera, as well as the film's subsequent critical praise and devoted following. They also talk frankly about some of the film's negative reviews, in particular Pauline Kael's belief that some of the scenes were staged and that one of the salesmen (known as the Badger) had to be an actor. Overall, it's a great and insightful commentary track. Also included on the disc is a brief audio segment from NPR's Weekend Edition program from 2000, which includes an interview with the Rabbit, one of the salesmen profiled in the film. But the highlight of the disc, besides the film itself and the commentary track, is a 1968 television interview with the Maysles brothers, conducted by film critic Jack Kroll. Production stills, filmographies, and the original theatrical trailer are also included. A really top-of-the-line disc in all ways.
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Special Features

Brilliant new transfer from a restored image, with optimal dual-layer RSDL quality; audio commentary by directors Albert Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin; 1968 Jack Kroll TV interview with directors Albert and David Maysles; a radio interview from 2000 with "The Rabbit" on NPR's Weekend Edition; behind-the-scenes photographs; original theatrical trailer; filmographies
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Gregory Baird
Whether peddling vacuum cleaners or encyclopedias, the door-to-door salesman is a uniquely American archetype, and one that comes under fascinating scrutiny in David and Albert Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin's landmark 1969 documentary, Salesman. This exquisitely crafted film follows four Bible salesmen -- nicknamed "The Badger," "The Gipper," "The Rabbit," and "The Bull" -- as each makes his way to a national sales meeting in Chicago. The Maysles vividly capture their motel-room life on the road and their attempts to inveigle their way into living rooms to promote "the best seller in the world." Perhaps the most moving of the four hawkers is The Badger, who seems caught in the downward spiral of negative thinking that spells doom for a salesman's success. Splendidly photographed in black-and-white, Salesman epitomizes the cinema verité documentary style also known as "direct cinema" that emerged in the 1960s. Scenes unfold as if the camera weren't present, making the subjects seem unnervingly candid and authentic. With no narrator, no musical score, no talking-head interviews, and no contrived plotline, Salesman feels remarkably intimate. Together with their legendary Rolling Stones documentary, Gimme Shelter, which followed the next year, Salesman solidified the Maysles' position among the great documentary filmmakers, such as D. A. Pennebaker and Richard Leacock.
All Movie Guide - Tom Wiener
Though the Maysles brothers had made several documentaries about celebrities (Showman!, on film producer Joseph E. Levine; and What's Happening: The Beatles in the USA), it was a group of Bible salesman who provided them with their breakthrough to a larger audience. Critical acclaim and showings at theaters specializing in foreign and independent product made Salesman the must-see documentary of 1969 and brought much attention to the cinéma vérité movement. In the late '60s, Paul Brennan and his colleagues come off like throwbacks to another era: men dressed in conservative suits working on their sales prospects one at a time, face-to-face. True to the precepts of cinéma vérité, the Maysles (and their co-director Charlotte Zwerin) don't try to pass judgment on their subjects, though it's difficult to determine whether the filmmakers hit Brennan at a bad time (he has trouble making any sales on camera) or they are recording a metaphorical death of a salesman.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 9/4/2001
  • UPC: 037429158920
  • Original Release: 1969
  • Rating:

  • Source: Criterion
  • Region Code: 1
  • Aspect Ratio: Pre-1954 Standard (1.33.1)
  • Presentation: Black & White / Mono / Dolby 5.1
  • Sound: Dolby Digital, monaural
  • Time: 1:31:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 14,984

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Paul Brennan
Jamie Baker
Technical Credits
David Maysles Director, Editor, Producer
Albert Maysles Director, Cinematographer, Producer
Charlotte Mitchell Zwerin Director, Editor, Producer
Dick Vorisek Sound/Sound Designer
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Scene Index

Side #1 --
0. Chapters
1. "The best seller in the world" [:16]
2. Sales meeting [4:51]
3. Leads and sales [1:59]
4. Humor sells [7:23]
5. A day's end [3:32]
6. Chicago [9:07]
7. Florida [5:09]
8. Role playing [5:44]
9. Lost in Opa Locka [5:46]
10. Pep talk [5:18]
11. The Rabbit [1:17]
12. The Bull [2:43]
13. The Gipper [1:00]
14. The Badger [3:50]
15. Questionable tactics [4:17]
16. Homesick [1:24]
17. Paul strikes out [2:31]
18. Frustration [9:02]
19. Success and failure [2:21]
20. The Gipper assists [7:40]
21. Going home [3:00]
22. Color bars [2:42]
0. Commentary Index
1. Selling and religion
2. Looking for the story
3. Personal connections
4. Gaining Access
5. Influences
6. Setting Paul Apart
7. Camera and sound
8. Direct Cinema
9. Working-class customer
10. Black and white film
11. Nicknames
12. In contrast with Paul
13. Tampering with the customer
14. "It's all about Paul"
15. Taking advantage of decency
16. A naturalc actor
17. The film's cast
18. The power of silence
19. Albert meets his wife
20. An accumulation of frustration
21. Paul sums himself up
22. Color bars
0. Interview chapters
1. Direct Cinema
2. The Subjects
3. Borderline moral territory
4. ''Every con man is a poet"|}|
5. The Maysles approach
6. Triumph and tragedy
7. The effect of the cinema
8. The art of Salesman
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Menu

Side #1 --
   Play The Movie
   Commentary
      Play
   Interview With Albert And David Maysles
      Play All
   The Rabbit on NPR's Weekend Edition
   Photo Album
      The Salesman
      Behind-the-scenes with the filmmakers
   Theatrical Trailer
   Filmographies
      Maysles Film-A Selected Filmography
      Charlotte Zwerin-Filmography
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