More often than not, image and music exist on separate planes in cinema. Though movies have soundtracks and music videos give visual expression to what is otherwise left for the ear, there are only rare instances – without mentioning musicals, which are more of an adaptation of theatrical sentiment than an indigenously cinematic form – where the audio and the video are so inherently linked that they demand to be considered a whole. These cross-disciplinary experiments are marked by the palpable vitality that can come only from artists in full control of their vision.
Tag: Maysles Brothers
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.
There is something to be said about timing when considering the merit of a documentary. To claim that the Maysles brothers were in the right place at the right moment in history when shooting the Rolling Stones’ 1969 tour would undoubtedly be true, but it would also belie the potency of their camera to dissect both the band and the cultural movement they were filming. There are very few gratuitous shots in GIMME SHELTER, and contrary to what one may find in other rock documentaries, concert footage is never used as filler or a mere treat for the viewer. Rather, the live performances included here are essential to the Maysles brothers’ deconstruction of rock and roll in the sixties. They are masterfully interwoven throughout the film to expose the movement’s charisma, contradictions and violent undercurrents, which inevitably converge into disaster.
Written by Chris Kriofske
USA, 1975. 94 min Cast: Edith Bouvier Beale, Edie Beale; Cinematographer: Albert & David Maysles; Producers: Susan FrÃ¶mke, Albert & David Maysles; Directors: Ellen Hovde, Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Muffie Meyer
Despite the current ubiquity of tabloid and reality-based television, if youâ€™re viewing Grey Gardens for the first time, you really havenâ€™t seen anything quite like it. Even if youâ€™re familiar with the Maysles Brothersâ€™ other â€œdirect cinemaâ€ (cinema verite) documentaries, arguably none of their subjects are as memorably eccentric as 79 year-old Edith Bouvier Beale and her fiftysomething daughter, Edie.