Albert Maysles was an American documentary filmmaker, known for his work with his brother David Maysles.

The Maysles brothers are regarded as pioneers of the documentary film genre, and their work has had a profound influence on the field of non-fiction filmmaking.

Here are some of the best films by Albert Maysles and why you should watch them:

Grey Gardens (1975): This documentary is perhaps the most well-known work by the Maysles brothers. It follows the eccentric lives of mother and daughter Edith Bouvier Beale and “Little” Edie Beale, relatives of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who lived in a decaying mansion in East Hampton, New York.

The film is a fascinating character study and a poignant meditation on aging, family, and the American dream.

Salesman (1968): This film is a portrait of four door-to-door Bible salesmen in the 1960s, and their struggles to make a living in a changing American economy. The Maysles brothers follow the men as they travel across the country, and the film offers a glimpse into the lives of working-class Americans at the time.

Gimme Shelter (1970): This film documents the infamous 1969 Altamont Free Concert, which was headlined by the Rolling Stones and marked by violence and tragedy. The film captures the energy and excitement of the concert, as well as the chaos that ensued when a fan was killed by a member of the Hell’s Angels, who had been hired as security.

In Transit (2015): This film, which was completed after Albert Maysles’ death in 2015, is a meditation on the American train system and the people who ride it. The film follows passengers on the Empire Builder train as they travel across the country, and captures the beauty and diversity of the American landscape.

Best Albert & David Maysles Movies

The films of Albert Maysles offer an intimate and insightful look into the lives of ordinary people, and are a testament to the power of non-fiction filmmaking to capture the beauty and complexity of the world around us.

1. Gimme Shelter (1970)

“Gimme Shelter” is a 1970 documentary film directed by Albert and David Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin.

The film documents the Rolling Stones’ 1969 US tour, which culminated in the disastrous Altamont Free Concert in California, where a man was killed by the Hells Angels motorcycle gang who were hired as security for the event.

Here are a few reasons why you might want to watch this film:

Historical Significance: “Gimme Shelter” captures an important moment in American cultural history, the tail end of the 1960s, which was marked by social and political upheaval.

The film documents the Rolling Stones’ tour as well as the Altamont concert, which is often seen as the end of the hippie era.

Authenticity: The Maysles brothers’ approach to documentary filmmaking is to capture moments as they unfold without scripting, posing, or direction.

This approach gives the film an authenticity and rawness that captures the feeling of the time and place.

Iconic Musical Performances: “Gimme Shelter” features some of the Rolling Stones’ most iconic musical performances, including “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Sympathy for the Devil,” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

The film’s use of handheld cameras and close-ups create an intimate and visceral experience for the viewer.

Overall, “Gimme Shelter” is a must-see for fans of the Rolling Stones, documentary filmmaking, and anyone interested in the cultural history of the 1960s.

It captures an important moment in American history with authenticity and power, and the film’s music and performances are as iconic today as they were in 1970.

Gimme Shelter
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • The Rolling Stones (Actor)
  • David Maysles (Director) - Porter Bibb (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

2. Grey Gardens (1975)

“Grey Gardens” (1975):

Intimate character study: “Grey Gardens” is a documentary that explores the lives of Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter, also named Edith, who were relatives of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

The film provides an intimate look at the Beales’ eccentric and reclusive lives, and examines their complex relationship with each other and with the outside world.

Creative use of archival footage: The filmmakers, Albert and David Maysles, use a mix of new and archival footage to tell the story of the Beales.

They creatively splice together home movies, newsreels, and other sources to create a collage-like effect that adds to the film’s dreamlike and nostalgic quality.

Captivating subject matter: “When We Were Kings” is a documentary about the 1974 heavyweight championship fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, which took place in Kinshasa, Zaire.

The film explores the cultural and political significance of the fight, as well as the personalities and rivalries of the two boxers.

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Overall, “When We Were Kings” is a powerful and engaging documentary that combines elements of sports, politics, and history to create a film that is both entertaining and thought-provoking.

Grey Gardens(1975, Ntsc, All Region, Import)
  • Edith Bouvier Beale, Edith 'Little Edie' Bouvier Beale, Brooks Hyers (Actor)
  • Ellen Hovde, Albert Maysles (Director)
  • English, Korean (Subtitles)
  • Audience Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)

3. When We Were Kings (1996)

“When We Were Kings” is a 1996 documentary film directed by Leon Gast, which chronicles the historic “Rumble in the Jungle” boxing match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in 1974.

The film features archival footage of the fight as well as interviews with those who were involved in the event, including Ali himself.

There are several reasons why “When We Were Kings” is worth watching:

Historical Significance: The Ali-Foreman fight was not just a sporting event, but a cultural and political moment that captured the world’s attention.

The film provides a valuable historical perspective on this important moment in the history of sports and in the social and political context of the time.

Compelling Storytelling: The film uses a combination of archival footage, interviews, and music to create a powerful and engaging narrative.

The documentary not only explores the fight itself, but also the build-up to the event and the broader social and cultural context of the time.

Insight into Muhammad Ali: The film provides a fascinating glimpse into the life and personality of Muhammad Ali, one of the most legendary and influential athletes of all time.

Through interviews with Ali and others who knew him, viewers gain a deeper understanding of the man behind the myth.

Overall, “When We Were Kings” is a captivating and insightful documentary that offers a unique perspective on a pivotal moment in sports and cultural history.

It is a must-watch for boxing fans, sports enthusiasts, and anyone interested in the social and cultural history of the 20th century.

   

When We Were Kings [DVD]
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, James Brown (Actors)
  • Leon Gast (Director)
  • French, Spanish (Subtitles)
  • English (Publication Language)

4. Salesman (1968)

Salesman is a 1968 documentary film directed by Albert and David Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin. The film follows four door-to-door Bible salesmen as they travel across New England, trying to sell expensive illustrated Bibles to working-class people who can barely afford them.

The film provides a compelling and intimate look at the lives of these salesmen, as they struggle to make a living and maintain their dignity in the face of adversity.

Here are three reasons why you should watch Salesman:

Captivating characters: The film’s four main subjects – Paul “The Badger” Brennan, Charles “The Gipper” McDevitt, James “The Rabbit” Baker, and Raymond “The Bull” Martos – are all fascinating characters in their own right.

The Maysles Brothers and Zwerin do an excellent job of capturing their distinct personalities and struggles, offering a rich and nuanced portrait of the American working class.

Overall, Salesman is a powerful and affecting documentary that offers a rich and nuanced look at the lives of working-class Americans.

The film’s captivating characters, raw storytelling, and insights into American culture make it a must-see for anyone interested in the art of documentary filmmaking.

Salesman [Import anglais]
  • English (Publication Language)

5. Christo’s Valley Curtain (1974)

“Christo’s Valley Curtain” is a short documentary film made in 1974 by Albert and David Maysles, the renowned American documentary filmmakers.

The film documents the creation of the artwork “Valley Curtain” by the Bulgarian artist Christo, which was a massive orange curtain that was hung across a Colorado valley in 1972.

Here are a few reasons why you should watch “Christo’s Valley Curtain”:

It offers a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of a groundbreaking artwork: The film provides a unique glimpse into the artistic process of creating an installation on such a grand scale.

The Maysles brothers follow Christo and his team as they work to realize his vision for the project, and capture the challenges and triumphs of the process.

It highlights the intersection of art and nature: “Valley Curtain” was a bold and innovative artwork that challenged the boundaries between art and nature.

The film captures the striking beauty of the Colorado landscape, and the way that the curtain interacts with the environment in surprising and unexpected ways.

It is a tribute to the power of human imagination: “Christo’s Valley Curtain” is ultimately a celebration of creativity and the human spirit.

The film shows the incredible determination and perseverance of the artists and their team in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges, and reminds us of the transformative power of art.

Christo's Valley Curtain
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Christo, Jeanne-Claude (Actors)
  • David Maysles (Director) - Albert Maysles (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

6. Iris (2014)

“Iris” is a 2014 documentary film directed by the late, great Albert Maysles. The film tells the story of fashion icon Iris Apfel, who at the age of 93, remains an influential and irreverent force in the fashion world.

Here are three reasons why you should watch “Iris”:

Insight into a Unique Personality: Iris Apfel is a one-of-a-kind personality, and “Iris” provides an intimate portrait of this colorful, eccentric woman.

The film showcases her wit, wisdom, and unique sense of style, and reveals the story of her life and career as a fashion icon.

Celebration of Fashion and Creativity: “Iris” celebrates the power of fashion to inspire, challenge, and transform, and explores the creative process behind Apfel’s unique approach to style.

The film features interviews with a range of designers, curators, and fashion insiders who offer insights into the world of fashion and the role of individual style in self-expression.

Insight into the Art of Documentary Filmmaking: As a documentary filmmaker, Albert Maysles was known for his ability to capture real moments and authentic experiences on film.

“Iris” is a testament to his skills as a filmmaker, as he captures the essence of Apfel’s personality and the world of high fashion in a way that is both engaging and inspiring.

Overall, “Iris” is a charming, insightful, and inspiring film that celebrates creativity, fashion, and the power of individuality.

It is a must-see for fans of fashion, documentary filmmaking, and anyone interested in the unique personalities that make our world a more interesting and inspiring place.

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3 Characteristics of Albert Maysles Films

Albert Maysles was a renowned documentary filmmaker who was known for his direct cinema style of filmmaking. Here are three characteristics of his films:

Candid and unobtrusive approach: Maysles and his filmmaking partners, including his brother David Maysles, were pioneers of the direct cinema style of documentary filmmaking.

They believed in capturing events as they happened, without interference or influence from the filmmakers. This approach led to candid, unscripted moments that gave the viewer a sense of being a fly on the wall.

Focus on character and emotion: Maysles was particularly interested in exploring the human experience through his films.

He often focused on individuals or small groups, highlighting their emotions and inner lives. This approach allowed him to create films that were intimate and emotionally resonant.

Collaborative filmmaking: Maysles often worked in partnership with others, including his brother David and his wife Deborah Dickson.

He believed that the collaborative nature of filmmaking allowed for a wider range of perspectives and a deeper exploration of the subject matter.

This approach also allowed him to capture the essence of his subjects in a way that was true to their own experiences and perspectives.

3 Reasons Why You Should Watch Albert Maysles Films

Here are three reasons why you should watch Albert Maysles’ films:

Insight into the human experience: Maysles’ films often explore the lives and experiences of everyday people, providing a unique and intimate insight into their thoughts, emotions, and struggles.

Whether he was documenting a family struggling to make ends meet in “Grey Gardens” or following the journey of a homeless woman in “Sodankylä Forever,” Maysles had a knack for capturing the essence of his subjects in a way that was both honest and empathetic.

Masterful use of direct cinema: As a pioneer of the direct cinema style, Maysles was able to capture moments of raw, unscripted emotion that are rare in documentary filmmaking.

His films have an immediacy and authenticity that draws the viewer in and creates a sense of being a part of the action.

Collaborative filmmaking approach: Maysles was known for his collaborative approach to filmmaking, often working with his brother David and other partners to capture different perspectives and bring their unique insights to the project.

This approach resulted in films that were rich in detail and nuanced in their portrayal of the subject matter. Watching Maysles’ films can be an opportunity to witness the creative process of collaborative documentary filmmaking.

Best Albert Maysles Films – Wrapping Up

To wrap up, Albert Maysles was a pioneering documentary filmmaker whose work helped define the cinema verite style. Here are some of his best films:

Grey Gardens (1975)

Salesman (1968)

Gimme Shelter (1970)

Iris (2014)

Muhammad and Larry (1980)

These films showcase Maysles’ ability to create emotionally engaging and intimate portraits of his subjects.

From the eccentric mother-daughter duo in Grey Gardens to the working-class Bible salesmen in Salesman, Maysles’ films offer a rich and nuanced look at the lives of ordinary people.

   

With his cinema verite style and commitment to honesty and authenticity, Maysles helped redefine the documentary genre and inspired a generation of filmmakers.

His legacy lives on in the many filmmakers who continue to draw inspiration from his work.