Aneesh Chaganty

Movie #181 Grey Gardens

In Uncategorized on April 12, 2011 at 4:13 AM

Movie #181 Grey Gardens

(1975, US, d. Albert Maysles, David Maysles)

This “direct cinema” documentary (a movement most comparable to that of the cinema verite) possesses a lot of traits characteristic of the genre. These filmmakers had one goal in mind: to capture reality, to make the most authentic piece of film around. By the time Grey Gardens was released, however, the movement was dying down and was under harsh criticism. Considered almost personal exploitation, this documentary was berated for manipulating images and creating juxtapositional meaning when meaning should not be inserted through the filmmakers. I tend to agree with this opinion. But apart from the aims of the filmmakers and their search for authenticity, one should not overlook the fact that the subjects here are two of the most interesting people to ever “star” in a film. I am, of course, referring to Edith Beales and Edith Beales, mother and daughter respectively. The film is about broken dreams, creating a haven that is both a recluse and a prison at once and living in the past. One thing that the Maysles do real well is providing visual clues to the past of these two mystery characters but never allowing dialogue to explain them. Though at times it seems as if the brothers are looking at them with a sort of judgmental eye (especially through the manipulated use of editing and self-reflexivity), for the most part it seems objective. But don’t expect any sort of a plot or thread line to Grey Gardens: it’s merely visual exposition. Effective, yes. But still exposition.

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