© Grey Gardens — Albert & David Maysles / Janus Films
1975, 94 minutes
For more than 20 years, Edith ‘Big Edie’ Bouvier Beale, 82, and her daughter, Edie ‘Litlle Edie’, 56, have lived together in a decaying 28-room East Hampton mansion by the sea. Close relatives of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (aunt and first cousin respectively), they are surrounded on all sides by the summer quarters of the powerful and wealthy, but gone are the days when mother and daughter would live in the splendors of high-society.
The women have lost their wealth but certainly not their wit. Nor their odd grandeur, oscillating at times from tragic to comic and perfectly captured by the Maysles brothers’ cameras. Shot in a direct cinema style with no commentary from the directors and almost no contextualization on the lives of these socialites-turned-recluses, Grey Gardens leaves it to the eccentric duo to tell their own story. And boy do they speak !
Both women have a way with words that is key to the film’s hypnotic appeal, and though they may seem at times to verge towards lunacy, they become increasingly empowered by the undivided attention they receive from the Maysles. Ultimately, one of the most influential films of the last few decades, and an unprecedented mining of human psychology realized not by seeking questions, but by ‘simply’ observing.