PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

10 Culturally Iconic Moments in the Career of Albert Maysles (1926 - 2015)

Though he never received the appreciation of his peers, documentarian Albert Maysles' mark on the genre remains indelible, and important. Here are 10 reasons why.

5 - 1

5. The Christo Films
Throughout the late '50s and up through the early '80s, the famed conceptual artist (with the help of wife and partner Jeanne-Claude) made headlines with insane temporary art installations. From draping a nine ton orange nylon veil between two mountain peaks to using six point five million square feet of pink fabric to encapsulate eleven Florida islands, Christo's work became the embodiment of the post-modern movement in its outsider aesthetic. The Maysles were there every step of the way, documenting the trials and tribulations of his efforts for posterity. The six collaborations between them mark a truly important moment in both artforms.


4. What's Happening! The Beatles in the U.S.A.
Few got to see the Fab Four "unexpurgated". From the moment they landed on our shores, their image was carefully protected to keep the fans frantic and the naysayers quiet. Luckily, the Maysles (with help) had access to the group for this no-holds barred overview from the moment they touched down at JFK airport in New York to their triumph return to England after The Ed Sullivan Show appearance. Over five days, we see a collection of very young men attempting to adjust to fame and the frenzy that follows it. More than just a look behind the scenes, we gain a glimpse of the lads themselves as well.


3. Salesman
Paul "The Badger" Brennan, Charles "The Gipper" McDevitt, James "The Rabbit" Baker, and Raymond "The Bull" Martos are door-to-door Bible hucksters who we watch working in and around Boston before moving onto a convention in Chicago and a new -- and very promising -- territory: Miami. Each has earned a nickname based on their particular style of selling, and thanks to the direct cinema technique the Maysles employ, they speak for themselves in ways no narrative could decipher. It's all about the pitch, the modification of the spiel to the specific economic and education levels of those being approached. In the end, we learn more about them than their product.


2. Gimme Shelter
Of the two main masterpieces that make up the Maysles' mythos, this is the most disturbing and direct. When the Rolling Stones decided to make-up for being MIA at Woodstock, they planned a concert in California that had disaster written all over it. From venue issues to security concerns, the group hired the Maysles to capture it all, including the lethal stabbing of a concertgoer by a member of the Hells Angels. While the musical sequences are special, nothing is more compelling than the moment when the filmmakers find the crime and then show it to the members of the band. Their reactions turn the movie from profound to priceless.


1. Grey Gardens/The Beales of Grey Gardens
Talk about hitting the jackpot. When the Maysles read that relatives of former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis were living in squalor in a rundown Hamptons manor complete with holes in the roof and wildlife infestations, they immediately grabbed the cameras in order to capture the chaos. What they found, instead, were two fading socialites eager to pose for their lens -- and argue incessantly -- about who among them was responsible for their lack of legitimacy and fame. While Big Edie enjoys time with her cats, 59 year old Little Edie thinks she can still be a Hollywood starlet. The subjects were so compelling they became the source for books, movies, and even a musical. But it was the Maysles' two films that functioned as a love letter to their formidable fall from grace.

Prev Page

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.