I watched this movie recently.

It started out with the idea that I would watch all of the Rolling Stones concert movies but I got sidetracked into watching the Maysles brothers films. I’m sorta taken with their work. Not just because it’s the infamous Stones at Altamonte concert, but for technical reasons.

The concert footage in this film was shot with very primitive 16mm film cameras with a separate sound recordist. So there were 18 two man crews covering this concert. They didn’t even have simpte back then. They had to slate everything with markers and notepads and the editor had to manually identify each roll of film and match it to the correct audio. And the longest they could shoot a on a reel was about 10 minutes. One of the brothers, Albert Maysles, said on the DVD commentary that he built his own camera rig to make it easier to “run and gun.” It sounds to me that he built some kind of shoulder rig with a mirror that allowed him to see his f-stop settings while he was shooting. He also built some kind of follow focus mechanism. Given all the technical limitations that they had to overcome, it’s amazing they shot anything. A couple of other tid bits gleened from the commentary was that they eschewed zoom lenses (which were fairly new technology at the time) in favor of normal primes, so that close-ups that appear in the film are there because the camera was actually close to the subject.

This might be their most famous film, but their film Grey Gardens has also been getting a lot of attention in recent years. I don’t think a lot of people have seen or even know of their film Salesman which is a quite brilliant documentary that follows Bible salesmen on their rounds in the mid 1960’s. Here’s a clip:

They’re considered to be the progenitors of a documentary style called Direct Cinema where a subject is shot in a cinéma vérité style (handheld following the subject) but the filmmaker’s goal in Direct Cinema is to capture the subject and not get involved with questions or interviews–only to capture what happens. It was a breakthrough in filmmaking in the 1960’s and only made possible because portable film cameras were invented that could be carried around and used at the same time. No doubt modern reality TV owes a lot to this style of fimmaking.

Posted via web from Bill’s posterous