Monday, November 23, 2009
Grey Gardens (1975)
In 1975 Albert and David Maysles were filming a documentary about the life and family of Jackie-O when they caught wind of an aunt and cousin of hers who were allegedly living in an old estate in the East Hamptons that had fallen into absolute squallier. I don’t mean to imply they lived in a high end home that was dirty, I’m talking straight up, unfit for human habitation level nasty. Diseased animals running around, trees growing in the living room, windows broken, no heat or electricity. Needless to say, the Maysles were fascinated and created a documentary, Grey Gardens, that was so scandalous and popular it essentially created the modern form of the general audience documentary. It’s not just that these two ladies were living this way in this neighborhood, but that they were absolutely bizarre shut-in’s who, despite it being the mid-1970’s, acted like they were high society ladies from the 1930’s, talking about making it big someday as a soft shoe or cabaret act, though neither was anywhere near under 50 years old. They were clearly nuts, but their zeal and their childlike view of the world and society, not to mention their sense of style made them near and dear to the hearts of millions in the 1970’s. In other words, the Edie’s were true originals who were inspirational, sad, strange ladies who seemed just fine to be living in a setting a health inspector described as unfit even for animals and watching the bizarre, endearing duo as they waltz through their strange daily lives is both compelling and repulsive, heartbreaking and heartwarming. This movie was a giant hit and gave birth to the modern popular documentary. After this, docs were shown in regular theaters and not just college auditoriums and high school classrooms. This sparked a wave of interest in this genre of filmmaking that has yet to subside and it is certainly worth your time.