May 22, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT

Grey Gardens

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
Unrated
runtime
95 minutes
Limited Release Date
09/27/75
performer
Edith B. Beale Jr., Edith Bouvier Beale
director
Albert Maysles, David Maysles
Producers
Portrait Films
distributor
Portrait Films
genre
Documentary
We gave it an A

In the early ’70s, the celebrated cinema verite team of David and Albert Maysles learned that Jacqueline Onassis’ aunt and cousin were living in spartan squalor in a once resplendent East Hampton mansion known as Grey Gardens. The Maysleses went off to film these two recluses, and what they found were a couple of aging fruitcakes who had practically turned into bag ladies, yet who somehow clung to their high-society airs. The result is this legendary 1976 documentary, now being given a national rerelease. We meet the doddering yet still imperious Edith Bouvier Beale, an ill-tempered, gray-maned crone warbling half-remembered fragments of ”I’m in the Mood for Love,” lording it over her daughter about forgotten suitors from 30 years earlier. We meet the former debutante beauty known as ”Little Edie,” swanning about in her Sunset Boulevard turbans and spouting high-flown gibberish in a hilariously cultivated New England social-register accent that makes her sound like a Tennessee Williams heroine played by one of the Warhol superstars. Grey Gardens offers the bizarre and resonant spectacle of these white-bread paragons devolved into trust-fund derelicts, yet the film’s gruesome comedy derives from the fact that their blood remained as blue as ever. They seem to be living in a self-created asylum for fallen American royalty. A

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