Eugenia & Louisa
I (finally) watched Grey Gardens this week after three colleagues and one friend, independent of one another, highly recommended it.
“WASPS gone feral.”
“I cannot believe you haven’t seen it. You will love it.”
I expected it to make me sad. To the mainstream mind the thought of two wealthy, privileged women abandoning society and disgracing their well-bred names to live in decadent squalor is sad. Disgusting, even. I didn’t feel sad at all. I imagined all the curiosities waiting to be discovered (or not) in that 28 room estate guarded by overgrown trees and native flora. Their property is probably what East Hampton looked like before the cookie cutter houses and manicured lawns took over the neighborhood.
I appreciated their close, symbiotic mother/daughter relationship. Their candid banter, quarrels, solos and duets are charming. Quickly able to look past the soiled furniture and crumbling walls, I recognized a bit of myself and my own family members in the Beales. Some of their belongings are reminiscent of those my great-grandmother and grandmother kept in their Illinois farm homes. My predecessors held on to a lot of junk, albeit in a much tidier manner. Whether out of habit or sentimentality, they must have had their reasons for saving and I respect that; I carry on this legacy in my own way with my own junk.
It is difficult to not interject your perspective into a piece of documentation. I know this because I alter every photograph I take with my own sense of storytelling: framing a moment within the viewfinder, carefully selecting its arrangement, selfishly sharing only what I want the audience to see. I respect and admire the filmmakers Maysles for allowing mother and daughter to be portrayed as themselves, in turn allowing the audience to react as themselves. Their footage could have been manipulated to create a variety of conclusions regarding these two eccentric ladies. Instead, the brothers create elegant compositions of this rare setting and rely on their subjects to narrate their own story.