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Albert Maysles

Joe McElhaney

Publication Year: 2009

Albert Maysles has created some of the most influential documentaries of the postwar period. Such films as Salesman, Gimme Shelter, and Grey Gardens continue to generate intense debate about the ethics and aesthetics of the documentary form. In this in-depth study, Joe McElhaney offers a novel understanding of the historical relevance of Maysles. By closely focusing on Maysles's expressive use of his camera, particularly in relation to the filming of the human figure, this book situates Maysles's films within not only documentary film history but film history in general, arguing for their broad-ranging importance to both narrative film and documentary cinema. Complete with an engaging interview with Maysles and a detailed comparison of the variant releases of his documentary on the Beatles (What's Happening: The Beatles in the U.S.A. and The Beatles: The First U.S. Visit), this work is a pivotal study of a significant filmmaker.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Series: Contemporary Film Directors

front cover

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Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

While not exactly a collaborative project on the scale of an Albert Maysles film, this book would not exist without the strong help and contribution of several individuals. My thanks to James Naremore for inviting me to contribute a volume to this series and for supporting my choice of Albert Maysles. ...

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Works of Art and Factual Material

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pp. 1-32

Within the history of documentary cinema, the name Albert Maysles has assumed near-mythical status. Maysles, usually in collaboration with his brother David, was a central figure in some of the most important documentaries of the 1960s and 1970s, culminating with three feature-length films ...

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Hard-Working People: Salesman, Showman, Meet Marlon Brando

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pp. 33-62

At the beginning of Meet Marlon Brando, Brando talks to a group of journalists about the various jobs he might have had if he had not become an actor. He also discusses his brief stint at manual labor, declaring, “I hated that.” Becoming an actor allows Brando to avoid the drudgery of manual labor. ...

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“It’s a Funny Place, This America”: What’s Happening: The Beatles in the USA and Gimme Shelter

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pp. 63-90

Although Maysles’s cinema is often structured upon a confrontation between worlds, it is equally drawn to representing large social collectives, since collectives allow for the possibility of a resolution to the problems posed by this initial confrontation. One can see this realized in a particularly complex manner in two films ...

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"I Feel Something Slipping": Grey Gardens, The Burk Family of Georgia, Lalee's Kin

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pp. 91-134

Virtually all of the Maysles brothers’ films from Showman through Gimme Shelter center on male figures; the women in these films often assume subordinate roles to the central drives and desires of the men. Nevertheless, the women also threaten to unsettle these worlds dominated (however precariously) by the men. ...

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Democratic Art Forms: A Visit with Truman Capote, A Journey to Jerusalem, Muhammad and Larry, Ozawa, Vladimir Horowitz: The Last Romantic, Horowitz Plays Mozart, Soldiers of Music: Rostropovich Returns to Russia, and the Christo and Jeanne-Claude

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pp. 135-156

In 1973, the Maysles brothers were asked by the Bulgarian artist Christo Javacheff and his collaborator and wife Jeanne-Claude to film them at work installing their latest project, Valley Curtain in Rifle, Colorado—a mammoth orange canvas stretched across a valley in a small Colorado town. ...

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Interview with Albert Maysles

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pp. 157-174

This interview was conducted in the office of Maysles Films, Inc., on West Fifty-fourth Street in Manhattan in February 2006. (Their office has since moved to Lenox Avenue in Harlem.) Maysles had no private office there (nor, for that matter, does he have one in the Lenox Avenue space). ...

Appendix: A Comparison of What's Happening: The Beatles in the USA and The Beatles: The First U.S. Visit

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pp. 175-180


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pp. 181-192


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pp. 193-198


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pp. 199-206

back cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780252091889
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252034299

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Contemporary Film Directors