Monday, November 27, 2006

Grey Gardens and The Beales of Grey Gardens

There appears to be a revived interest in Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter 'little' Edie, who were subjects of the documentary, "Grey Gardens" (dirs. Albert and David Maysles, and Muffie Meyer, Susan Froemke and Ellen Hovde, US, 1975, 100 mins.), as it even a spawned a new Broadway musical this season. Albert Maysles has pulled together something of a sequel, which is getting a limited release around the country before Criterion releases it on DVD in December.

"The Beales of Grey Gardens" (dirs. Albert and David Maysles, US, 2006, 90 mins.) culls together unused footage from the original 1975 project about this eccentric pair of women. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the subject, Edith and 'Little' Edie Bouvier Beale were an aunt and cousin to Jacqueline Bouvier-Kennedy-Onassis. They made headlines at one point, as their living conditions had deteriorated to such a degree that the property was about to be condemned. That is, until Jackie O., stepped in and cleaned the place up for them. THAT is the tip of a fairly surreal, if nearly macabre story of a mother and daughter who lived completely self indulgent lives, though inexplicably bound to each other. Whereas the original "Grey Gardens" portrayed the frustration, anger and resentment the women had toward each other, "The Beales of Grey Gardens" is a much gentler and kinder portrait of these two eccentrics. It would be easy to refer to them as deluded, especially 'Little' Edie who almost never stops daydreaming and talking and gossipping. However, they seem more lost in nostalgia than anything else.

The second film also seems a sentimental, though subliminal tribute by Albert to his deceased brother, David, by including some of 'Little' Edie's flirtations during the filming. In fact, it is this lack of objective boundary between filmmaker and subject that overshadows the project. In the original, there is a sense of exploiting the 'myth' of these extended members of the Kennedy family. In the sequel, it is a much more sensitive portrait of a pair of women who realized that this was a fleeting chance for immortality and a family legacy, which they were so close, yet so far from being a part of.


Maxxxxx said...

re "Grey Gardens": "Cranky bird!"
re "The Beales of Grey Gardens": "Such a pretty bird!"

JimmyD said...

I hope that one of your gentle readers saw 'Grey Gardens' the night Jerry was there to do a Q&A. I'd be curious to know what he had to add.