With minds focussed on every possible shade of grey for the issue coming out in June, cult classic Grey Gardens just couldn’t be left out. This fly-on-the-wall documentary by the Maysles brothers shows fragmentary and unvarnished extracts out of the daily life of high-society dropouts Edith Bouvier Beale – as in aunt of Jackie ‘O’ Kennedy – and her daughter ‘little Eddie’, living together as social outcasts in a dilapidated mansion in the otherwise prosperous East Hampton. Condemned to exile together, in their haven filled with cats in desperate need of potty-training, raccoons and the accompanying fleas, the two former socialites keep themselves occupied by dropping names, trying to remember song lyrics of bygone tunes and reconstructing the past – each interpreting history in their own way. With the makers of the film completely relegated to the background, Grey Gardens affords a free stage for ‘the Eddies’, who had always imagined themselves making it big in show business. Both little Eddie’s dancing and Edith’s nerve-wracking warbling lead to scenes and dialogues more estranging than most scriptwriters would dare to come up with. The endless squabbling and screeched reproaches that echo through the twenty-eight rooms of the house expose a psychological minefield, often reminiscent of the structures of a Greek tragedy. In this cinematic essay on the loss of glory and youth and the thin line between the present and the past, the Eddies get under your skin, but aren’t always such gracious acquaintances.
Watch an extract here:
Grey Gardens (1976), available from Amazon