sat 15/12/2018

DVD: That Summer | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: That Summer

DVD: That Summer

Before 'Grey Gardens', Big and Little Edie Bouvier Beale welcome cousin Lee and friend

'Little' Edie Bouvier Beale and Lee Bouvier Radziwill have fun in an overgrown gardenPeter Beard

The meanderings and bickerings of an extraordinary mother and daughter as they roam or lounge around a semi-derelict house and overgrown garden on Long Island have become a cult since the 1975 release of Albert and David Maysles' documentary Grey Gardens. "The Big" - as singing "mother darling" calls herself here - and "Little" Edie Bouvier Beales have been much impersonated, not least by drag artists (Jinxx Monsoon on the ever-amazing RuPaul's Drag Race won the film legions of new gay fans). Is there more to tell about what already seemed a little bit too much of a good thing?

Absolutely. That Summer revisits the Bouvier Beales from different perspectives, those of the globetrotting socialite photographer Peter Beard and the Edies' cousin, in other words Jackie (Bouvier) Kennedy Onassis's sister, Lee Radziwill. They came first to the Beales in the summer of 1972 (that summer), with the intention of capturing a wider slice of Hamptons social history, and with much loving concern on Lee's part for the way her aunt and cousin were being treated by the local big little people, who'd been in to hose the house down - inside. The footage was apparently lost by a film laboratory for over 40 years, giving the filmmakers who accompanied Beard and Radziwill on the first, hitherto unrealised shoot total dominance with Grey Gardens up to now.

That SummerThat rambling slice of reality, if you can so call it, left one to draw one's own conclusions - which, I hope, would be much the same as Beard's, loving the Edies' "inner poetry" and "dream world", never seeing a bad side to them, never finding them "sad or unfortunate". The director of That Summer, Swede Göran Hugo Olsson, very wry in a short interview extra, gives a framework, a structure and one angle, a very loving one. Beard is seen at beginning and end mulling over old photos, talking at first of Mick, Bianca, Andy, Truman and Ari - briefly glimpsed in home movies - as well as the animals in Kenya so much that you wonder whether our adored star pair are going to appear.

When they do, they get the core of the film. As well as seeing them from Beard's and Radziwill's perspectives, there are not only new insights - Little Edie "piercing the veil" with a spiritual visitation, for instance, the fun Lee's young son has with the raccoons the ladies loved so much that they had been happy for the roof to fall in because of them - but also three crucial songs in three parts. The first two are poetic solos - a hacienda fantasy from Little Edie, a French chanson which Big Edie carries on singing down the telephone to a caller who barely disturbs her reverie - the third a duet, of great significance, Weill's "September Song". The romance is all there. And there's a wry conclusion, which is that Beard, in 2016, seems just as nostalgic about holding on to the past as the ladies were in 1972. What happened in between, not least the further adventures of Little Edie, is not the concern of this elegiac, concentrated gem.

There are new insights - Little Edie 'piercing the veil' with a spiritual visitation, for instance

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters