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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • The Beales of Grey Gardens, the 2006 sequel to the film
  • Audio commentary for Grey Gardens, featuring Maysles and codirectors Ellen Hovde and Muffie Meyer, along with associate producer Susan Froemke
  • Introduction to The Beales of Grey Gardens by Maysles
  • Audio excerpts from a 1976 interview with Little Edie Beale, conducted by Kathryn G. Graham
  • Interviews with fashion designers Todd Oldham and John Bartlett on the continuing influence of Grey Gardens
  • Behind-the-scenes photographs
  • Trailers

Grey Gardens

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Ellen Hovde, Muffie Meyer
1976 | 94 Minutes | Licensor: Maysles Films

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #123
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: December 10, 2013
Review Date: December 2, 2013

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SYNOPSIS

Meet Big and Little Edie Beale: mother and daughter, high-society dropouts, and reclusive cousins of Jackie Onassis. The two manage to thrive together amid the decay and disorder of their East Hampton, New York, mansion, making for an eerily ramshackle echo of the American Camelot. An impossibly intimate portrait, this 1976 documentary by Albert and David Maysles, codirected by Ellen Hovde and Muffie Meyer, quickly became a cult classic and established Little Edie as a fashion icon and philosopher queen. The Blu-ray edition features the 2006 follow-up to the film, The Beales of Grey Gardens, constructed from hours of extra footage in the filmmakers' vaults.

Forum members rate this film 8.5/10

 

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

Grey Gardens comes to Blu-ray from Criterion, presented in its original aspect ratio of about 1.33:1 on a dual-layer disc. The high-definition transfer is delivered in 1080p/24hz.

I clearly wasnít paying close enough attention to the original announcement because I was simply expecting a high-def version of the DVDís transfer, but thatís clearly not the case. This is a whole new restoration and digital transfer done in partnership with the Academy Film Archive using the original 16mm A/B negative. The end result is absolutely amazing and a complete surprise for me. Just the opening title card, which is nothing but a title over a green background, stunned me and from there it just continued to amaze. Colours are particularly striking, and easily the biggest surprise here, especially since the house and the overall setting is rather drab. But the sky is a striking blue, the vegetation (thatís alive) delivers deep greens, a yellow wall inside comes off very sunny, and Edieís outfits, particularly a red one, are all very striking. Black levels are also fairy deep and never crush out any details, and flesh tones look accurate.

The camera can go in and out of focus but the picture is very sharp overall. Finer details are rendered clearly, particularly in close-ups. Film grain is fairly heavy, not surprising for a 16mm film, but itís natural and clean. There are no instances of noise or compression. Damage is also, as far as I could see, non-existent. Other than the odd hair or bit of debris that I assume was on the lens, I donít recall a single blemish.

This transfer, for me, was an absolute surprise. I was expecting something fairly ho-hum but I got one of Criterionís most impressive presentations. It really does, in the end, look like a projected 16mm film.

10/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The linear PCM 1.0 mono track was also another surprise. The source materials and manner of recording obviously limit it: the subjects (Edith and Edie) regularly mumble or speak away from the filmmakers making it hard to hear, not helped by the fact they also talk over one another. But audio quality is generally good, free of damage and background noise. I also didnít find the track at all flat, offering a respectable amount of range and fidelity. Another surprising aspect to this release.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion ports most everything over from their original DVD edition and adds on one big feature, a whole other film.

The audio commentary is the same one, featuring directors Albert Maysles, Ellen Hovde and Muffie Meyer, and associate producer Susan Froemke. It sounds as though theyíve been recorded together or at least in groups. The track is more of a recollection of the shoot, and their relationship with Beales. They all became fairly close, which probably did alter the conditions a bit, and they share stories about incidents that didnít make it into the film. They also offer more of a history about the two and their family, expanding on things hinted at in the film, then mentioning the critical reaction, which wasnít entirely good. Itís a decent track but I think the big fans of the film will get the most out of it. Unfortunately an Easter Egg didnít make it over: if you let the DVD continue playing after the film ended and you had the commentary on, an added bit played over the color bars, where Maysles actually calls up Little Edie and has a short conversation with her. It could be hidden on here somewhere but if itís missing completely itís a real shame.

Criterion then includes the 2006 ďsequelĒ, The Beales of Grey Gardens. The film was released on DVD by Criterion, with its own spine number (361) and could be purchased on its own or in a box set with a reprinting of the Grey Gardens DVD. On this Blu-ray edition itís simply treated as a special feature, which may be suiting. The film doesnít have much of a flow and really feels like 91-minutes of deleted scenes and/or outtakes, where Grey Gardens seemed to have an actual timeline and managed to construct a story about the two. Itís not a worthless feature, far from it, but I have a feeling I would have been particularly annoyed viewing it in the theater. As a feature with Grey Gardens it probably works a bit better.

It also looks like Criterion has simply ported over the DVD transfer and upscaled it. Itís presented in 1080i/60hz. Disappointing but Iím honestly not all that shocked.

Criterion also carries over the introduction by Albert Maysles that was included on Criterionís original The Beales of Grey Gardens DVD. At over 8-minutes Maysles explains why he did it: he explains how the original film and The Beales had become very popular in pop-culture (musicals, an actual film, etc.) and thought it might be fun to revisit. He explains why this footage didnít make the original cut, talks a bit about the mother-daughter relationship, and mentions how he met Jerry again, and even presents footage of a recent meeting he had with the man. Not wholly in-depth but itís a nice accompanying feature and interview.

Criterion then includes the same set of audio interview excerpts featuring Little Edie, who sounds to be accompanied by one of the Maysles. Here she talks about making the film, working with the Maysles, and even expands greatly on the ďraidsĒ that occurred on their home about the horrible living conditions (I think she feels it was all a conspiracy by ďthose peopleĒ from East Hampton Village.) It continues to show her eccentricity and has its charms. It runs 41-minutes.

Two video interviews are next, with fashion designers Todd Oldham and John Bartlett. Each run about 5-and-half-minutes and feature them talking about their first experience seeing it (bootlegs,) the impact it had on them, and the cult following it has (apparently itís quoted a lot around the office.) They also both talk about Edieís fashion sense and how it has influenced their work. Not entirely necessary but somewhat interesting.

The scrap book, which is three galleries, showcases family album pictures (made up primarily of Edie glamour shots,) behind-the-scenes photographs of the shoot, and then photos of the cats. It looks like everything is here from the DVD, though they do group some of the photos together on the same slide (the cats specifically.)

The disc then closes with the original theatrical trailer and a TV spot.

The insert includes what looks to be the same essay by Halton Als that appeared in the DVDís insert. Missing is the essay by Michael Mutso that appeared in Criterionís DVD of The Beales of Grey Gardens (but it can be read online on Criterionís site.)

Itís a good value overall. The ďsequelĒ did little for me so Iím actually okay with it being delivered more as a special feature and it ends up making the release more of a deal. Iím surprised Criterion has upgraded it more (itís been 12 years since the DVD was originally released) but the supplements are solid enough as they are.

7/10

CLOSING

Itís a nice release. Criterion hasnít upgraded the supplements much, but do include The Beales of Grey Gardens, the 2006 follow-up film, which adds some real value to the release. The transfer, though, is quite gorgeous, and may be the Blu-rayís biggest selling point.


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