Tag: Little Edie

August 3, 2015 / / Main Slate

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The case can be made that 1975’s GREY GARDENS (1975) pioneered the current spate of reality shows invading our airwaves. Many, too, cite the film as the very first cinema-verite “hit”, popular with audiences and critics alike when it was made, popular to this day. Famed documentarians David and Albert Maysles capture a story that is purely camp, as they lovingly capture the grandiose ambitions, dreams and philosophies of the two women at the film’s core. Camp is that special brand of humorous theatricality, a style popular with the gay community (the movie is referred to by many as Gay Gardens and was adapted into a Tony award-winning musical). The Maysles get the comedy of their subjects, yet, they never make the Beales look ridiculous; they see in these failed women, as do the women themselves, a dignity, a hope that is palpable. The Maysles capture perfectly the Beales’ eccentricities, making Big Edie and Little Edie seem neither precious nor twee. This is an intimate story, told with gentle sensitivity. When there are broad strokes to be made, the Beales make them. Underneath what might have become derisiveness toward these ladies, the Maysles instead unearth symbols of a collapsed and resurrected America. Know that what you are seeing is not the sleazy Kardashians lolling around in sweats fretting over brother, Rob’s latest weight gain — GREY GARDENS takes on a depth and a pathos seldom found in today’s schlocky t.v. reality circuses. This is documentary exalted to a level of art. Both this film and PBS’ series, An American Family, are the best dissections of family life the 1970s ever produced.

July 26, 2006 / / Film Notes

Written by Chris Kriofske

USA, 1975. 94 min Cast: Edith Bouvier Beale, Edie Beale; Cinematographer: Albert & David Maysles; Producers: Susan Frömke, Albert & David Maysles; Directors: Ellen Hovde, Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Muffie Meyer

Despite the current ubiquity of tabloid and reality-based television, if you’re viewing Grey Gardens for the first time, you really haven’t seen anything quite like it. Even if you’re familiar with the Maysles Brothers’ other “direct cinema” (cinema verite) documentaries, arguably none of their subjects are as memorably eccentric as 79 year-old Edith Bouvier Beale and her fiftysomething daughter, Edie.