Tuesday, July 21, 2009
WORTH-IT: (Ellen Hovde, Albert Maysles, David Maysles and Muffie Meyer) The 1975 documentary reveals Edith Beale and her daughter Edie Beale living in the filth which they refer to as their East Hampton mansion. Their story, gisted well here, here, and here explains the background. I took interest in this original after seeing a strung out duo of Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange publicize their work in the remake at this year's Oscar ceremony. The strange way the pair flaunted their upcoming film struck a chord with me, as I knew briefly of the history of the strange pair of real Beales. The documentary is hard to watch. It's from 1975, so consists of straight shooting. The women do all the talking and entertaining, sometimes bringing their face close to the camera or putting on small performances. Their ignorance and delusion is so crystal clear it becomes tragic to watch, but at the same time hypnotizing. Their filth is radiant. Feeding cats off the same plates they feed themselves. Eating canned food and throwing the leftovers to the animals roaming through their hallways. Dinner consists of cottage cheese on crackers, or ice cream from the tub. I watched it for 15-20 minutes at a time, quickly becoming disgusted at the candid grotesque these women called life. What was once a beautiful, reputable mansion was left overgrown and rotting. The women seem unaware and almost uncomfortable with the thought of leaving. Turning it off each time forced me to shake my head, snap out of it and move on. It took almost a week to watch. But, I must say that the raw filming was gripping. I was entranced, locked in on their portraits, locked in watching their disenchantment flourish and their reputation relent. I recommend it to history buffs, those interested in the history of the socialite society, particularly that of East Hampton. It's truly fascinating if you can put up with the literal nastiness. Plus, it gives you the adequate portrait before we see Lange and Barrymore's tripped out attempt at recreation. I'm looking forward to it.