The Beales of Grey Gardens
Using hours of archived footage shot for their documentary Grey Gardens (1975), brothers Albert and David Maylses return to the intriguing subjects of their earlier film Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter, Little Edie, a pair of bizarre shut-ins who lived together in their crumbling 28-room mansion in East Hampton. Impoverished and, frankly, more than a little crazy, the pair lived in just a few rooms of their family home and faced eviction until a last-minute donation from their relative Jacqueline Bouvoir Kennedy allowed them to remain in their home (along with raccoons and feral cats who'd moved into some of the rattier upstairs rooms.) The Maysles' original documentary was more than a little exploitive but fascinating, and even though this new documentary is really little more than leftover footage, surviving brother Albert has done a nice job of putting together a supplement to the original. Unfortunately, it doesn't really stand alone as a separate film from the first, and it probably only exists because the Beales' story was made into a successful stage musical that was popular enough to jump from off-Broadway to Broadway proper. It's little more than a collection of deleted scenes and extra material that's more akin to a DVD supplement to a DVD than as its own movie. As usual, Criterion's done a bang-up job with the film, creating a new full-frame (1.33:1) digital transfer from the original camera negative and a 16mm workprint, cleaning up virtually all scratches, dust, and visual noise, and creating a crystal clear, newly mastered DD 1.0 soundtrack (English, with optional English subtitles). The disc features a new introduction by Maylses, and the package includes an essay by critic Michael Musto. Also available as part of a two-disc set with Criterion's Grey Gardens. Keep-case.