Don’t let the title fool you. Despite 20 or so bookending minutes in which photographer and artist Peter Beard reflects over old photos and some alluring footage about the innocent days when Montauk drew celebrities like Andy Warhol and Mick Jagger rather than mere
In 1972, Lee Radziwill (as in former Princess Caroline Lee Radziwill née Bouvier) schlepped from Southampton, New York, to East Hampton with the idea of making a documentary about the Long Island life of her and her family, including her sister, Jackie O; why not invite their “eccentric” — that’s Radziwell’s term — Aunt Edie to participate, filming the scandalous Havisham squalor of her life, and maybe get her to sing a few songs? So, Radziwill, Beard and a film crew that included the Maysles brothers (Albert and David) entered the crumbling, overgrown, raccoon-infested mansion that would eventually become legend. The Bouvier-family documentary sputtered, and the Maysles never got access to the footage they shot in ’72; recognizing a great story when they saw one, they made Grey Gardens a year later.
Now, That Summer reveals four lost reels of Grey Gardens’ inhabitants, “Big” Edie Beale — aunt to Radziwill and Jackie O — and “Little” Edie Beale, “Big” Edie’s adult daughter. They are, here, essentially as we remember them, just a touch more self-conscious. The crucial difference: Here, the Beales are often in receiving-visitors mode, on their best behavior in the company of Radziwill and Beard. In fact, That Summer finds the dank, dark confines of Grey Gardens getting sunnier and more welcoming. Radziwill and Co. arranged for plumbers and electricians to come out and restore hot water to the property, all while making plans to dispose of rotting furniture and bags of garbage.
This footage is more incidental, less mysterious and revelatory than in Grey Gardens. But, still, it’s more of the Edies, which makes it priceless. (Goran Hugo Olsson, director of The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975, put the film together.) Highlights include Edie the younger, again wearing black turtlenecks and marvelous headscarves, improvising a cabaret number she calls “My Adobe Hacienda.” There is, again, much ado about critters, including far too many cats: “Mother was engaged to Horace Bigelow Allen, so I named that Maltese male cat Bigelow,” Little Edie tells us. Pointing to a golden tabby, she says, “That’s
Occasionally, present-day Radziwill and Beard speak in warm terms over this footage about the intensely private lives the Edies lived in Grey Gardens. “They were in a dream world, and it was OK,” Beard says, investing OK with curious
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“You shouldn’t have had incest with your uncle,” Big Edie snaps.
“I didn’t have incest — I just found out about men,” Little Edie replies.
As often happens in Grey Gardens, this moment pierces through the voyeuristic
That Summer. Starring Peter Beard, William Vanden Heuvel, Paul Morrissey, and Lee Radziwill. Directed by Göran Hugo Olsson. 82 minutes. Not rated. Opens Friday, May 25, at Bill Cosford Cinema, 5030 Brunson Dr., Coral Gables; 305-284-4627; cosfordcinema.com.