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Feature


Grey Gardens is an 1975 American documentary focusing on a mother and daughter, both named Edith Beale. The Beales are related to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis but do not live the lives of glamour you would imagine. The daughter cannot let go of her past, the pair snipe at each other in their uncared for home, reliving the past, and the heartfelt, raw emotions involved in a daughter giving up her hopes and dreams of an acting career to take care of her ailing and aging mother. The directors Albert Maysles and David Maysles attention to letting their subject talk and live their lives make them considered pioneers of the documentary film.

Video


The 2K Resoration gives us an image that is rather raw, featuring a 70s documentary style. This means dark edges and corners from time to time and a rather gritty feel.  It has an abundance of grain and of course realistic lighting adds very little pop to the image from a 'Movie' perspective. That said, in terms of documentary filmaking and from a fair few decades ago now the image looks pretty fantastic.

Warm skintones and natural lighting capture a genuine feel for the period. Brightly coloured clothing, lucious green foliage, beaten down furniture and the Grey Gardens location in general all comes together to  deliver an image that great within it's genre and a wonderful view insidea past era. More shadowed or flat out dark scenes can of course seem grubby but even within that detail still manages to thrive. Patterned clothing really does look great at times, especially when bathed in warm sunlight. Skin blemishes and wrinkles are sharp and realistic and everything just feels alive without being unaturally boosted.

The visuals here are not about showing off but the HD remaster is so solid, you almost feel transported back in time at times. You feel in the room with these unique ladies and the image is good enough that you feel you can study them. Their clothes, their dishevelled home, their photographs, everything is crisp, despite the inherent grain and given the age of the film this is a presentation that manages to impress within its own terms and is no doubt the best way to experience the Beales.

Audio


The raw documentary audio has a touch of unavoidable hiss but the voices from the subject being followed are clean and clear. There are specks of sounds picked up from around them, passing planes or birds but this track isn't really about that, it's about the conversation (wild, wacky and fascinating) and the track never fails to present these elements perfectly.

Extras


Commentary with Albert Massless, Ellen Hove, Muffie Meyer and Susan Froemke fills out the story and the making of the film and makes a great alternative way of watching the film.

'The Beales of Grey Gardens' (91:00 HD) is a 2006 follow up to the original Grey Gardens created from additional footage. It comes with an 'Introduction' (08:31 HD) explaining the project as well.

'Little Edie' (40:51 HD) is a 1975 audio interview with the Beale daughter in Time Magazine.

The 'Interviews' section feature Todd Oldham (05:25 HD) and John Bartlett (05:23 HD) and both give a nice insight into the film's almost mythological reputation.

'Scrapbook' is a collection of stills, split into sections, Family Album, Behind The Scenes and Cats.

Last up is Trailer and TV Spot and once again, I assume the disc comes with a Criterion booklet but it was not supplied with this review disc.

Overall


I'd never heard of Grey Gardens and I went in entirely blind but my God, it's fascinating. This mother and daughter and their eccentric interactions make for endless entertainment. Those accents, their home, their attitudes, their stories, it's bewildering and jolly and sad all at the same time somehow. Their relationship is odd and funny, their positive outlook, and sense of self and family history that doesn't seem to match their situation is uplifting despite itself and their passive aggressive annoyances with their past or their lives just makes for documentary subject gold. This is a charming film, with a solid video and audio presentation and a great selection of additional extras that add a whole lot more to the Beale's story. Criterion have done a grand job on this little gem and those of you that binge on modern reality TV should go back in time a bit and check these two ladies out, nowadays these two would be megastars.
* Note: The images on this review are taken from the Blu-ray and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the true quality of the source.
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 Grey Gardens
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 Grey Gardens
 Grey Gardens
 Grey Gardens


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