Co-director of such classic documentaries as Salesman, Gimme Shelter and Grey Gardens, plus cinematographer for D.A. Pennebaker (Monterey Pop), Jean-Luc Godard (Six in Paris) and Martin Scorsese (Shine a Light), Albert Maysles is simply a living cinema treasure.
Turning 87 this month (November 26), the older of the Maysles brothers has more than a hundred credits in his impressive filmography and still directs and shoots. Paying tribute to this, the documentary film festival DOCSDF organized a Maysles brothers mini retrospective for its 2013 edition, showing three of their films (What's Happening! The Beatles in the U.S.A, Salesman and Gimme Shelter) and inviting Albert to Mexico City.
I had the fortune to attend one of the Albert Maysles DOCSDF events: his master class at CCC (a Mexico City film school). It began with an introduction by the moderator (a music and film journalist) and few words by Maysles, who immediately recalled his beginning in filmmaking with Psychiatry in Russia and Primary, after teaching psychology at Boston University: "I didn't have sound so I had to use narration (for Psychiatry in Russia), but several years later I met with people who had this idea of cinema vérité. I became part of the team. We made Primary, which revolutionized documentary filmmaking. It was no longer dependant on a narration or a host. It left you with a feeling of actually being there."
What followed was a video with clips of many Albert Maysles films, from Psychiatry in Russia (1955) to The Gates (2007). Albert sat down in front row to watch some of the most iconic images he and his brother David (1931-1987) captured on film. The Beatles, Marlon Brando, Truman Capote, Vladimir Horowitz and, of course, the Rolling Stones (while listening to their own song "Wild Horses") were part of the video selection.
The class continued with a Q&A involving Albert, the moderator and finally the audience. In the gallery below you can read the top quotes from this session and see some nice B&W photos of the living legend Albert Maysles.
“Salesman is probably the first feature documentary. When people use the word feature it no longer means a work of fiction, it could be a feature documentary.”
Photo Credit: Claudia Aguilar Guarneros