Synopsis

Filmmakers (and brothers) Albert and David Maysles follow four employees of a company that makes expensive, ornate, illustrated bibles as they attempt to sell the items door-to-door to less-than-interested customers, who are mainly poor or lower-middle-class Catholics with little money to spend on pretty Bibles.

Director

Albert Maysles

Cast

Paul Brennan
as Himself - 'The Badger'
Charles McDevitt
as Himself - 'The Gipper'
James Baker
as Himself - 'The Rabbit'
Raymond Martos
as Himself - 'The Bull'

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by mcnally 9 /10

Desperation is painful to watch...

From the Maysles Brothers (Gimme Shelter, Monterey Pop, When We Were Kings) comes this unsettling portrait of door-to-door salesmen. In this case, the film is especially interesting since they're selling Bibles to Catholic families. All the sales tricks are there, with a special dose of guilt. Most interesting is the portrayal of Paul, one of the older salesmen, who is realizing he may have "lost it." His desperation is painful to watch. (9/ 10)

Reviewed by johnmbale 10 /10

Moving Tribute to Door to Door Salesmen from the Past

This interesting documentary is like a time capsule. Bringing to life the late 1960's, in a sometimes unsettling manner. It tells the story of a group of door to door Irish/American salesmen, selling Bibles in Boston and Florida. It is fascinating to watch the actual sales pitch, the manners and way we were at that time. (Smoking was certainly the order of the day) The growing desperation of one of the older salesmen as his sales figures slump, is quite as moving as in the play "Death of a Salesman". Anyone who has ever been involved is selling direct to the public should make this compulsive viewing. The documentary technique is also exceptional. There is not a word of commentary, introduction, or the usual "talking head" interviews that slow so many of todays TV documentaries. The characters themselves, and clever editing clearly tell the story and create the a raw drama. Camera work is remarkable for the time too, the subjects never seem to be aware of the filming process, unlike much Reality TV. This is a true American Tragedy, reflecting the loneliness of old time salesmen, and indeed that of many people with whom they deal. It is a credit to the Maysles.

Reviewed by kev-22 N/A

Searing and unforgettable

As with Frederick Wiseman's "Titicut Follies," the Maysles brothers' "Salesman" is truly a landmark for the "cinema verite" documentary movement of the 1960s. Although the former is shockingly realistic in a sensational way, "Salesman" is actually the more disturbing for showing the Hell-on-earth that marks the workaday world for most of humanity. If ever a film shows that most people "lead lives of quiet desperation," this is it. In my lifetime of viewing films, I've never seen a non-fiction film more affecting and poignant. That this film didn't make the AFI Top 100 is practically scandalous. Be forewarned, this is an oppressively sad, yet slyly funny, film that is not easy to watch. It speaks volumes about American business practices, the ties between business and organized religion, the exploitation of religious belief (and its perversion via materialism), the dehumanization of workers, the crushing wisdom that can come with aging, the scary mindset of suburban denizens, and a lot more. If ever anyone had the right to ask the question, "Is that all there is?" it would be Paul, an aging Bible salesman having trouble meeting his sales quota, who serves as the film's central character. The film is brutally honest, yet powerfully manipulative. It does beg the question: how much is real and how much is affected by the presence of the cameras? One does feel, after seeing this, that reality is just as bad as Dorothy Parker said it was. For those who fail, the American Dream is a nightmare. In short, a film you'll never forget.

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