"Salesman": Film Analysis

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Stuart Johnson SMPA 3479.10 Seavey 9/24/12 Salesman (1968): Film Analysis Beginning in the 1950s, light, dependable cameras with portable sync sound gave documentary filmmakers the flexibility to shoot wherever they wanted. This technological advance, along with many others in the industry, allowed Albert and David Maysles to produce a documentary film chronicling the lives of four bible salesman by actually filming their meetings with potential customers inside their homes. In doing so, Salesman (1968) strives to shows audiences what would have occurred in reality were the cameras not there to observe it. For the most part, Salesman effectively humanizes the main characters in the film by exposing the two faces of a salesman: the face he shows to his peers, and the face he shows to his customers. However, a few intimate scenes with the main protagonist, Ryan Brennan, seem to have been affected by the documenter in a manner that benefits the story the Maysles brothers want to tell. Salesman is an important documentary historically because it was one of the first in the form of “cinema verite”. According to Bill Nichols, “Cinema verite reveals the reality of what happens when people interact in the presence of a camera.” In Salesman, the Maysles brothers do mostly a good job of familiarizing the audience with the four main characters of the film: Charles Devitt “The Gipper”, James Baker “The Rabbit”, Paul Brennan “The Badger”, and Raymond Martos “The Bull”, by filming them conversing with one another casually in their hotel room. In keeping a distance between the documenter and the documented, the audience got to know these characters without getting the sense they were intruding upon their everyday activities. Yet, in some scenes, the audiences sees Brennan performing for the camera and not behaving like himself. At many points throughout the film, the camera

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