Albert Maysles, the legendary documentarian behind “Grey Gardens,” passed away last night at the age of 88. Maysles was famous for his ability to humanize people on the big screen and craft intimate, empathetic portraits. In these clips below, Maysles talks frequently about “love” being the reason he makes films; he wants to show people as human beings. Unique to documentary filmmaking, the director pointed out, is how you can film another person’s experience, and then that experience becomes that of a multitude of people. Maysles insisted his documentary subjects could see something “in his eyes,” picking up the compassion and admiration he felt for them, and therefore trusted their lives in his filmmaking hands. “When you make a film like ‘Grey Gardens,'” he said, “you have a special devotion to the people in the film, and they become your friends forever.”
Maysles presents his film “Salesman” at DOC NYC 2014.
Here, Maysles is interviewed about his documentary “Salesman” (1968), which follows four traveling salesman who sell Bibles door-to-door in neighborhoods across America. The film focuses on salesman Paul Brennan, a middle-aged Irish-Catholic. The ever-sympathetic Maysles discusses how this film was his opportunity to befriend Irishmen who had previously disliked him for being Jewish, as there was lots of anti-Semitism when he was growing up outside of Boston. He also tells the romantic story of meeting his wife at one of the “Salesman” screenings.
Maysles at the DOC NYC Visionaries Tribute, 2014.
In this video, Maysles accepts a Lifetime Achievement Award from DOC NYC. He tells a funny story about accidentally taking LSD with the Grateful Dead, and mentions a touching point about how documentaries “make real the biblical expression Love Thy Neighbor.” The more people watch his films, the more they come to understand their theoretical “neighbors” all over the world. “New York has a lot of great neighbors,” Maysles says sweetly. “We should get to know more of them.”
Q&A for “Salesman” screening at STF Docs Spring, 2012.
In another interview for “Salesman,” Maysles talks about how he met and got to film the Rolling Stones and the Beatles (he didn’t know who either group was before he started the projects). Maysles also tells the wild story of he got to know and document Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro. Apparently, Castro merely looked into Maysles’ eyes, and saw that he could be trusted.
Q&A with Muffie Meyer and Maysles on “Grey Gardens” at STF Docs.
In this Q&A, Maysles and co-director Muffie Meyer talk about their iconic documentary “Grey Gardens.” Maysles discusses the beautiful letter Edie wrote to the New York Times after the paper gave them a a devastatingly negative film review. The Times refused to publish the letter, thinking Edie was crazy. “It’s difficult for people to draw the line between madness and eccentricity,” Maysles says. Maysles and Meyer also address accusations that their doc was “exploitative.”
Exclusive Clip from “Meet Marlon Brando” (1965).
“Meet Marlon Brando,” the documentary by Albert Maysles and David Maysles, is a short black and white film featuring the actor as he is interviewed by journalists. The film premiered at the New York Film Festival in 1966.
“The Pleasure of Stillness” on SnagFilms.
Indiewire parent company Snagfilms has “The Pleasure of Stillness” streaming for free in its entirety. This Maysles documentary is about the critically acclaimed New York-based modern dancer and choreographer, Sally Gross.