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Grey Gardens, Directed by Albert and David Maysles

Portrait Films, February 19, 1976 (US)

Starring: Edith (Big Edie) Bouvier Beale and Edith (Little Edie) Bouvier Beale

We’re stuck, trapped in an endless state of imaginary transition.

Edith (Little Edie) Bouvier Beale: I think my days at Grey Gardens are limited.

Afloat in the current, we believe in a now that never quite is.

Little Edie: It’s very difficult to keep the line between the past and the present. You know what I mean? It’s awfully difficult.

Old pictures stumbled upon—searched for—may be vanity’s cruelest daggers or else proof positive that time stands still. At heart, we are forever young. And so we refuse the photo’s subliminal innuendos: suggestions that our best days are behind us.

Little Edie: Do you think I’m gonna look funny dancing?

Albert and David Maysles: No. 

Little Edie: I do terrific dances!

We are stuck like dirty rotting dilapidated old driftwood on the banks of an unforgiving sea, waiting to float back out with the tide.

Little Edie: I can’t stand being in this house. In the first place, it makes me terribly nervous. I’m scared to death of doors, locks, people roaming around in the background, under the trees, in the bushes, I’m absolutely terrified.

The intimacy is painfully absolute. And as crazy as it gets (and it gets) the strangest sensation is not of a voyeuristic bent but instead something more frightening. If we exercise honest introspection, perhaps a closer examination might reveal a little of ourselves inside the disrepair, along the stained walls, or within the cracks in the floorboards. Maybe there are a few raccoons or other unmentionables in our own attics inside our own Grey Gardens and own delusions, and maybe we too are drawn to the very same shores to stand at the brink as conquering heroes, half admiring / half taunting the sea that has not yet claimed us. We may even give in to the belief that our days in Grey Gardens are also limited.

Little Edie: He might as well leave right now, ’cause he’s never gonna get it. So that’s it.

Edith (Big Edie) Bouvier Beale: Get what? Sex with you?

Little Edie: What he’s after!

Big Edie: He doesn’t want any sex with you.

Little Edie: That’s all they’re after.

Big Edie: An old person like you?

Little Edie: That’s all they’re after. So why don’t you tell him right now? You should tell him right now so I’m not bothered by him.

The pages turn. When did we stop living in summer? When did we start loving the fall? Things are dying all around us.

Big Edie: Will you shut up? It’s a goddamn beautiful day, shut up!

Sing instead, and dance to trace the lines from present and past, to bring the pictures back to life, the summer vacations where we swam forever in a moment, our moment, leaping from houseboat roofs straight up into the Kentucky sky before falling back down into the cool pure blue of Lake Cumberland.

It is easier to trace your way back to the past if you never left it behind at all.