The cinematic legend that is Albert Maysles speaks softly, but with passion, of his decades-long commitment to "cinema direct," a nonfiction film style he honed with his late brother David. Cinema direct means the Maysles' nonfiction works have immense appeal and immediate rapport; they contain no intrusive voiceover narration, no on-camera questions, no staged scenes, no judgmental arrogance -- nothing interjected between us and the individuals featured.
And captivating individuals take center stage at "Meet Albert Maysles," Webster University's weekend-long tribute to Maysles' films. From the four door-to-door Bible salesmen in 1968 Boston in Salesman, to Jackie Kennedy Onassis' first cousin and aunt wandering their decaying East Hampton mansion in Grey Gardens, to the Rolling Stones' deadly 1969 Altamont concert in Gimme Shelter, to Christo wrapping Paris' oldest bridge in Christo in Paris, to LaLee Wallace epitomizing the legacy of cotton deep in the Mississippi Delta in LaLee's Kin: The Legacy of Cotton, it is the people who make Maysles' films succeed. Both serious students of psychology at Boston University, the Maysles brothers engage respectfully with this diverse population, hoping we put aside our preconceptions to understand, in Albert's words, "what life for many is and what it could be. It's so difficult to define what makes people happy. Often it's a reaction to sadness." He adds soberly, "Truth is complicated. I wish people had greater faith that one can establish it in a film. I don't mean absolute certitude, but we've become so cynical, a terribly undermining factor in our lives, instead of having a healthy skepticism." Maysles concludes that "you don't have to make a Michael Moore film to get people to think about the necessity for change."