August 15, 2020  (Web Review)

Salesman

Criterion, 91 min., not rated, Blu-ray: $39.95

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

One of the landmark cinema vérité documentaries of the 1960s, sibling directors Albert and David Maysles’s 1968 Salesman follows a quartet of bible salesman–nicknamed the Badger, the Gipper, the Rabbit, and the Bull for their signature sales approaches–in sales meetings, hotel rooms, and ultimately, door to door in the Northeast and Florida, as they pitch the $49.95 gold-embossed Catholic bible to lower-to-middle class Catholic families. Capturing the end of an era, Salesman’s somewhat depressing central character is Paul Brennan aka the Badger, a Willy Loman in the flesh who’s struggling to meet his quotas, while his co-workers are signing just enough takers to stay in the game. Bowing on Blu-ray with a fine 4K restored digital transfer, extras include a 2001 commentary by Albert Maysles and the film’s editor Charlotte Zwerin, a new video appreciation by actor Bill Hader, the 2016 parody episode “Globesman” from Documentary Now! featuring Hader, a 1968 TV interview with Jack Kroll and the Maysles brothers, a 2000 NPR interview with James Baker (the Rabbit), and an essay by critic Michael Chaiken. Not for all tastes, but a milestone in documentary history, this is definitely recommended. (R. Pitman)