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David Maysles (#110 of 3)

If I Were a Rich Man: Salesman

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If I Were a Rich Man: Salesman

Janus Films

If I Were a Rich Man: Salesman

“If a man’s not a success, he’s got no one to blame but himself.”

Variations on that sentiment recur throughout 1968’s Salesman. It’s the myth of American self-determination boiled down to 14 words. Each time it’s repeated, it becomes funnier and more ominous. Filmmakers Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin subtly contradict it simply by depicting the title profession, which was already in decline when the film was shot, and which consisted mainly of secularists or nonpracticing believers trying to sell middle- and working-class Americans religious texts they didn’t want and probably couldn’t afford anyway. Without narration—and with only a handful of onscreen titles, most of them terse and dryly factual—the filmmakers show just how casually materialistic postwar America had become.

BFI London Film Festival 2012: Tomorrow

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BFI London Film Festival 2012: <em>Tomorrow</em>
BFI London Film Festival 2012: <em>Tomorrow</em>

Vladimir Putin’s Russia is a complex place. Spanning 16 regions and across eight time zones, Russia is a country of dichotomy. It’s at once home to multi-billionaire oligarchs (whose wealth has been accumulated only since the fall of communism) and secret tribes practicing their own laws based on religious sectarianism. It was only in August that an Islamist sect of over 70 people, including 27 children, was discovered having been living in an underground catacomb for over a decade. Russia, as a country, is definable only by its contradictions. It’s a nation of massive cultural, economic, ethnic, political, and religious disparities—a modern-day feudalist state built of communities that are small, insular, and proud.

A pre-title card to Andrey Gryazev’s Tomorrow states that the events that follow may or may not have actually occurred in reality. Such an inherent and overt contradiction undermines the documentary’s claims to factual accuracy. Gryazev captures the intensely personal lives of his anarcho-libertarian subjects as they roam the streets of Moscow shoplifting, gleaning from trashcans, and attempting to overturn parked cars. This small group of civic revolutionaries reject money, ownership of property, the established governmental regime, and the hypocrisies of law enforcement. Co-founders and de facto leaders Oleg and Koza call their son Kasper “Russia’s youngest political prisoner.”

The Bear Necessities An Interview with Alonso Duralde, Part Two

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The Bear Necessities: An Interview with Alonso Duralde, Part Two
The Bear Necessities: An Interview with Alonso Duralde, Part Two

In Part 1 of our interview with Alonso Duralde, arts and entertainment editor for The Advocate and author of 101 Must-See Movies for Gay Men, Alonso analyzed the gay subtext of Carrie, conceded that he might consider jumping the fence for Gina Gershon and said Brokeback Mountain had the potential to be the Uncle Tom’s Cabin of homophobia. In Part 2, he praises The Apple, defends Kevin Smith and Chasing Amy, and explains why Top Gun isn’t in his book.

Purely on a synopsis level, I’d imagine there was no way you could have excluded Gods and Monsters. But that movie was troublesome for some viewers, particularly young gay men who came of age in the era of AIDS activism. I personally know two gay film critics who despised that film because to them, James Whale represented sort of a worst-case-scenario gay artist, the broken down old queen lusting after the hunky young straight handyman. For all the film’s intelligence and period sophistication, doesn’t Whale’s character seem like a gay white equivalent of Hoke in Driving Miss Daisy? By which I mean, a representative of a particular type of man who irrefutably existed, and continues to exist, but who makes the supposedly “enlightened” world more uncomfortable by the year?