Watch: A Video Essay About Albert Maysles’ Larger Than Life Film Subjects

Watch: A Video Essay About Albert Maysles’ Larger Than Life Film Subjects

If you were going to teach a child about the Berlin Wall, it would probably be best to start by showing them one stone and explaining the story behind it. If you wanted to teach someone about Heironymous Bosch’s great painting "The Garden of Earthly Delights," you would go forward detail by detail, rather than trying to take in the whole painting at once. If you want to understand Beethoven’s Fifth, go after it note by note first. Similarly, the late Albert Maysles went after the details of his subjects’ lives, and magnified them, and in so doing showed us more about their enormity than twenty dense biographies might show, whatever those books scholarly attributes might be. In this touching and respectful video essay by Nelson Carvajal, we can see that what Albert Maysles was after in his documentaries was the details–he wanted a way to show the vastness of his subjects’ accomplishments, from Muhammad Ali to Vladimir Horowitz to Paul McCartney, and so he showed us the facial expressions, mannerisms, turns of phrase, and quirks of movement which characterized their off-camera moments, their time out of the public eye. In teaching us about their humanity, he showed in what sense they could be called greater than human.–Max Winter

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