Draft Review by Dean Duncan Apr 17, 2014

Hilarious, horrifying, the apotheosis of direct cinema, here allied with Absurdism explicitly (in addition to a lot of other big things Salesman is a black comedy, after the manner of Beckett and/or Ionesco) & Marxism indirectly: these guys may be selling Bibles but beneath the trade particulars this is really capitalism, & this–the endless futile round, the bootless striving that does no one any good, the eventual broken lives–is really capitalism condemned;

With the Bibles & all, organized religion is also strongly implicated, maybe utterly rejected; watching this you can’t help but think of the moneychangers in the Temple, not to mention the uncomfortable suspicion that no one seems to be upset about them taking up residence there;

Is this fair? Yes/no: this deck is pretty stacked after all, these men, especially the horrible boss & the preposterous Rabbit, are basically made of straw; more importantly, more profoundly, fundamental Christian precept–the Sermon on the Mount & Matthew 24/25 & any number of other incontrovertibly central & easily available texts–completely condemn this kind of thing as well;

All that is relevant, all that is quibbling; in the end Salesman is one of cinema’s most appalling wastelands, one of its starkest tragedies: in addition to the lots of laughs, these lives are lonely, then desperate, then pretty utterly desolate; you’re not completely sure, but it all seems to end with someone’s actual, absolute & utter nervous breakdown; really funny, deeply devastating, almost infernal stuff!