Salesman is the Pick of the Week

A landmark 1968 documentary headlines a new week of some pretty good releases.
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The documentary is an often celebrated genre of film that depicts real life, real human behavior, and some of the most infamous moments in history. The famous team of the Maysles Brothers (Albert & David) and Charlotte Zwerin, sit near the top of the list of greatest documentarians, with their iconic portraits of the Rolling Stones disastrous 1969 tour at Altamont (Gimme Shelter), and the eccentric world of the Beales (Big & Little Edie), cousins of Jackie Kennedy (Grey Gardens). With their 1968 masterpiece, Salesman, they successfully captured the brutal and depressing side of an often nihilistic profession. In excruciating, and at times, difficult-to-watch style, the lives of four relentless door-to-door salesman are exposed as they try and sometimes fail to sell expensive Bibles to low-income families. There is a fly-on-the-wall technique that the viewer witnesses as the men cope with homesickness, rejection, and eventual emotional/mental/physical exhaustion. It's a dour, but extremely effective film that still retains its timelessness and relevance.

The new reissue from Criterion looks like a very good one. The DVD and Blu-ray editions both have the audio commentary by A. Maysles and Zwerin; television interview with the Maysles, conducted by critic Jack Kroll; audio excerpt from a 2000 episode of NPR's Weekend Edition profiling James Baker, one of the salesmen featured in the film; and the trailer. However, the Blu-ray only has two more supplements: a new appreciation by actor/comedian Bill Hader, and an episode of the IFC channel's Documentary Now series, parodying the film, starring Hader and Fred Armisen. The new essay by critic Michael Chaiken is also only available on the Blu-ray as well. It's not for everyone, but to me, it's definitely a must own.

Other notable releases:

Uncut Gems: the Safdie Brothers acclaimed third film starring an excellent Adam Sandler as Howard Ratner, a jewelry store owner and dealer to the wealthy and famous, who desperately needs to find a way to pay his debts when his merchandise is stolen by one of his top clients and girlfriend. 

Bombshell: director Jay Roach's interpretation of the #MeToo movement, as three women, including Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron), take on Fox News chief Roger Ailes.

A Quiet Place (4K Steelbook): first-time director John Krasinski's thriller about a family living in utter silence, for fear of unknown creatures that attack at any sound.

The Bolshevik Trilogy: three films (Mother, The End of St. Petersberg, and Storm Over Asia) by Russian filmmaker Vesvolod Pudovkin that were made during the country's Revolution.

Little Joe: A woman working as a senior plant breeder at a company that is developing a new species, takes one home to her teenage sone, against company policy, which obviously leads to dire consequences.

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