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Salesman Review

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A documentary which follows four travelling salesman trying to flog their decorative bibles to Catholics without the money to spend to spend on such luxuries.

★★★★★

The Maysles brothers’ 1969 documentary is one of the masterworks of Direct Cinema. There’s no narration here, just harrowing scenes (superbly edited by Charlotte Zwerin) of four Florida Bible salesmen trying every trick not in the Good Book to fulfil their quota.

Laying bare the cynical soul of US capitalism and the grip that exploitative religions exert on the ill-informed and the vulnerable, this unflinching classic is all the more sobering because desperate opportunists like Paul ‘The Badger’ Brennan know their potential dupes are as unable to afford the $49.95 asking price as they are. And it torments them, as they rot in cheap motels reeking of a real-life failure that’s more excruciating than the fictional flunking of Willy Loman or Shelley Levene.

An uncompromising documentary which simply lays its subject bare and dares us not be moved by the raw humanity on display.

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