The Austin Chronicle

From the Vaults: Albert Maysles

By Marjorie Baumgarten, March 7, 2015, 4:40pm, Picture in Picture

The pioneering documentarian Albert Maysles died this week at the age of 88. With his brother David, he was the director of such films as Grey Gardens and Gimme Shelter, and many other classics of American cinéma verité.

At the Chronicle, we've been fortunate over the years to publish several interviews conducted by writer Anne S. Lewis with Albert Maysles, the filmmaker she identified as "one of the kahunas of cinéma vérité." An interview she conducted in 2000 was selected to appear in the book Albert and David Maysles: Interviews, which was published in 2010 by the University Press of Mississippi as part of their "Conversations in Film" series. You can find out more information about the book here.

Lewis' original interview, "Stories That Tell Themselves" – which you can read here – was published on February 11, 2000, in conjunction with Maysles' appearance at the Austin Film Society-sponsored Doc Tour screenings of Meet Marlon Brando and the little-seen What's Happening! The Beatles in the USA.

In that wide-ranging interview, Maysles summarized the craft of his documentary non-interview as follows: "The cameraman has to have what I call 'the gaze' – empathy – the way you look at the people you're shooting and how you establish their trust. Paying attention to people is an extremely powerful force of recognition and of love. And that's documentary at its best. Without their trust, you're just a walking zombie with a camera and your subjects don't connect." You can read the rest of "Stories That Tell Themselves" here.

"Stories That Tell Themselves," February 11, 2000
"Through a Lens Lovingly," March 8, 2002

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