Salesman

Salesman

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Salesman Reviews

Page 1 of 7
Tim S

Super Reviewer

July 6, 2007
If I was born in another time, I would want to be born during this time. And this would probably have been my job.
Harlequin68
Harlequin68

Super Reviewer

April 10, 2010
"Salesman" is a very effective cinema verite documentary from the Maysles Brothers about bible salesmen operating in Massachusetts and Florida on the surface. Unlike Jehovah's Witnesses, they are not selling religion. The targets are already believers who gave their names at their local churches. What they are really selling is status with the $50.00 bibles that can be bought with cash, C.O.D or, my personal favorite, the Catholic Honor Plan. All dollar amounts are from 1967, so this is an especially pretty penny. If you are a believer, then it is the words that count, not the packaging, unless you are trying to convince somebody else that you are wealthy enough to afford one which most of the people the salesmen talk to cannot. For these salesmen, victory comes in small bunches in this frustrating profession with its long hours on the job and nights in cheap motels. Some succeed like those that make $35,000 to $50,000 but they are rare, even as the bosses urge them that success is within their sights. And Paul Brennan, the center of attention, wonders if maybe he should have taken his family's advice to "join the force and get a pension" during one particularly bad week.
Hellshocked
Hellshocked

Super Reviewer

March 6, 2009
It is not long into the film that we begin to realize how amoral its subjects are, none more so than the company that employs them. The salesmen are promised riches limited only by how hard they work to obtain them, despite the fact they only sell to lower and lower-middle class families and the era of the door-to-door salesman is rapidly coming to an end. Because the company peddles nothing more and nothing less than bibles, it publicly acts the part of the concerned social servant, spreading the word of god for a measly US $49.99 payable in up to six installments. Behind closed door meetings, however, the message could not be any more direct: no one's job is safe unless profits pick up considerably.

We do not get to know our four subjects very well, though we spend the most time with Paul Brennan (the badger), a world weary and possibly depressed figure whose considerable experience as a salesman has sapped his confidence and left him empty. As the film progresses he becomes more and more desperate, culminating in a public humiliation at the hands of one of his friends that is incredibly painful to watch. That we can empathize so deeply with a character whom we have seen, among other things, pester an old woman into ponying up the cash for a bible she doesn't need, using a fake irish brogue and lying about his family history to secure sales, is a testament to the film. Unlike the other characters, most of whom are more traditionally likable (save for the group's supervisor, a nasty piece of work who was clearly a high school bully and now found a way to make money off his talent for intimidating people into doing what he wants), we get the feeling Paul never had a choice, never gave himself one. He is lost and doesn't know it, and his anxiety and despair increase by the minute. Seeing his coworkers mock him, his low sales figures and his tired eyes it is clear his days as a salesman are numbered.

I would not be friends with any of the film's subjects (and I'd beat the crap out of at least one of them on general principle) but the film allows us to view their humanity and glimpse into a bygone era without becoming a nostalgic apologia. Far from it. By remaining detached and simply observing, the film is far more spiritual than anything relating to the company it depicts. It loves its sinners, while hating their sin.
cheatingthedevil
February 2, 2008
Groundbreaking documentary. A bit slow for the 2000's, but if you pause to see the character development and hypocrisy (lying Bible salesmen), then you may be rewarded with a satisfying movie.
twanUM
April 2, 2007
Just watched for film class... characters are interesting in that they're both sympathetic and, at times, reprehensible. Toward the end I felt like I let a salesman into my house and he just wouldn't leave.
September 10, 2014
Purposely uncomfortable at times, ''Salesman'', by the Mayles brothers, opens up alienation in the most genuine way.
December 16, 2013
Salesman was a groundbreaking work in documentary feature film history, where the legendary Maysels brothers took the cameras on the road and followed a group of Bible salesmen. Once again, their careful choice of an interesting subject paid off in what is rightly regarded as a milestone of direct cinema. The language of the film simply differentiates itself from previous documentaries, as the film feels like a narrative feature with comedic and dramatic elements that give it a much greater and more accessible appeal. As mentioned before, the subjects themselves with their varied colourful personalities makes the film entertaining and engaging all throughout.
September 29, 2013
Like many Meley's documentaries, this feels melancholy and seems as if not that much is going on, but, like all of their work, is so engaging and really keeps you thinking after the initial viewing. I've never seen such consistently haunting documentary filmmakers; their films just stick in my head for days.
September 11, 2012
This doc feels surprisingly contemporary in its following of several bible salesman. It shows everything from the door-to-door pitches, to the salesman conventions, to the personal frustrations. The Maysles allow the story to tell itself, often sitting in particularly awkward situations and letting things play out on their own.
October 4, 2012
Sad documentary following the life of door-to-door bible salesmen, who try their best to push a $50 bible onto lonely housewives 1966. As sad as it is revealing about the day-to-day struggle of the mid-to-late 60s, the Maysles Brothers are somehow able to make us compassionate for these men, and yet disgusted by what they do.
August 1, 2011
I stumbled across this film and really enjoyed it. It's a documentary made in 1968 and it's just loaded with sub text. It's not a feel good film, but it's one that you'll probably not be able to quit thinking about after you watch it because it will affect you on many different levels. It was one of the more evocative films I've seen in a long time.

It's done so well, you might forget you're watching a documentary. Everyone in it is so good and so believable. It's a reality show format that's about four decades ahead of its time.

It seems like the kind of film you can watch over and over and get something different out of it every time. It'll take you back to real, "real housewives" era. As for the men, it made me think of how many people hung on to horrible jobs back then because job hopping wasn't the thing to do. By the way, the guys who made this movie went on to make "Gimme' Shelter."
January 12, 2011
Oh God, I hate movies that are not a happy ending. but I don't skip watching them anyway because I learn from it.
March 6, 2011
I'm sure the inspiration for Jack Lemmon's character in Glenberry Glen Ross and later the shit salesman from The Simpsons. Heartbreaking but real. Great Doc
Harlequin68
Harlequin68

Super Reviewer

April 10, 2010
"Salesman" is a very effective cinema verite documentary from the Maysles Brothers about bible salesmen operating in Massachusetts and Florida on the surface. Unlike Jehovah's Witnesses, they are not selling religion. The targets are already believers who gave their names at their local churches. What they are really selling is status with the $50.00 bibles that can be bought with cash, C.O.D or, my personal favorite, the Catholic Honor Plan. All dollar amounts are from 1967, so this is an especially pretty penny. If you are a believer, then it is the words that count, not the packaging, unless you are trying to convince somebody else that you are wealthy enough to afford one which most of the people the salesmen talk to cannot. For these salesmen, victory comes in small bunches in this frustrating profession with its long hours on the job and nights in cheap motels. Some succeed like those that make $35,000 to $50,000 but they are rare, even as the bosses urge them that success is within their sights. And Paul Brennan, the center of attention, wonders if maybe he should have taken his family's advice to "join the force and get a pension" during one particularly bad week.
FFellini
March 8, 2008
Salesman is one of the most powerful documentaries I have ever seen. The premise is simple. Door to door salesman are trying to sell expensive Bibles to low income families. But what impacted me the most was Paul Brennan's story, a man who went from his prime to the self realization that something wasn't the same. His fellow salesman are doing well, but he struggles for a single sale. His art, his skill, his passion had decayed in front of his eyes. He had decided to transform his denial into unfortunate realization.

There is a point in the documentary that I will never forget. The end of the film, he sits, muttering to himself the good times he had and how they have become spoiled. His mind races while his eyes try to keep up. What we see isn't just a documentary, a camera angle, or a carefully lit environment. What we see is a real man rethinking the state of his life and what will become of it. He stands up and stares out the window hoping the answer will present itself. Of course it isn't there and the documentary fades into black. Paul Brennan's story replays itself every single day on the earth to various people around the globe, even to this day. The Maysles brothers just took a snapshot of it.
erico_77375
March 7, 2008
[font=Arial]A man in his late 40s tells a woman ten years younger than she is about a new illustrated version of the bible that he would like to sell to her. His hands are racked with arthritis. His nickname is The Badger, perhaps because his hair looks like one or because that's what he's doing with this customer. His name is Paul Brennen, the main subject in Albert and David Masles' documentary, Salesman.

Salesman isn't just a movie about Brennen, but about America in many respects. Along with three other Boston-natives The Gipper, The Rabbit and The Bull, Brennen sold bible to Catholic households with information given to them by the local churches. They handle many different types of customers in different climates up and down the continental United States. These four men travel together for comraderie, but also to beat down the pressures that come with the job (all four are avid chain-smokers). Between the pitches, each carries onto the dream of greater wealth, a dream encouraged falsely by the company they work for. We go to the sales meetings, which hold more dispair than the pep they're designed to bring.

In the middle of this is Brennen, who starts off thinking he's just having a dry run of luck. But as the others keep seeing success while he's still falling deeper into decline. His life on the road has isolated him from his wife, where the only conversation we hear between them is distant and sterile. The company lines make it clear that this product sells itself and that if you're not selling, there's only you to blame. And as the days keep going by, Paul's desperation reaches deeper levels of unprofessionalism as he goes from lying to customers to selling more aggressively than should be allowed.

Salesman sees a country at the beginning of a slide into commericalism and mass consumption. It shows us a real world where men will sell you your religion on a payment plan (I'd hate see someone come repo a bible). There's a dark humor in all of this, the professional way this company tries to encourage it's salesmen to pitch and sell "the world's best-seller of all time", while motivational speakers make these road-weary agents the equivolent of Jesus Christ.

For directors Albert and David Maysles with editor and co-director Charlotte Zwerin, this is a crowning achievement in documentary filmmaking as they use a technique that puts a distance between the camera and it's subject, but allows the subject to be of focus at all times, like a novel. Maysles states that this technique was inspired by Truman Capote's revolutionary writing style used for In Cold Blood. We follow all four men, but we get closer and more interested in Paul. The others are concerned for him, first starting off with an intervention and ending with Paul riding shotgun with The Gipper which ends with Paul getting the blunt end of a embarrasing moment by his partner. The film feels like fiction, but comes through clear enough to believe it to be real life. And in Paul, they find a soul falling into a dispair of his own making and yet a fall was going to happen one way or another. There's only so much time before the magic of persuasion is lost. And for a salesman who lives and eats off the high that comes with such persuasion, this is almost as bad as a death blow.

Ultimately, this film is powerful without being overwhelming. It's earnest without being coy. And when we look at Paul Brennen by the end of the film, we feel that more than a part of his soul is lost, but a part of our country's as well. The film is sad, but not depressing. And I cannot tell you how important this film should be in the classrooms.

One last thing I'd like to say: The National Registry put Salesman on it's list in 1991. This film is considered a national treasure. After seeing it, you'll understand why.[/font]
Ross G.
July 26, 2006
I haven't updated this journal for a while, so I figure it's time to add a few quick reviews of what I've watched lately. First up is Clerks; all the hype about Clerks II got me interested in finally seeing this supposed cult comedy classic, and I wasn't dissapointed. Never had I thought of Kevin Smith as a man of talent, but Clerks certainly changed my mind about him. Filmed in grainy black and white, all the action takes place in one day and not a line of dialogue is wasted. It's not always laugh-out-loud funny, but you'll at least be smiling the whole way through. Cache (a.k.a. Hidden), was a slight dissapointment. The concept was good, but it never put me on the edge of my seat, or even made me take my back off it like it initially promised to. Finally, the Bible salesman documentary, appropriately titled "Salesman"; such a well-executed documentary on a subject that you would never expect to stay awake for. The Maysleses (is that how you would say it?) really know how to treat their material, and as a result we get a unique, and very interesting documentary on an otherwise mundane subject.
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