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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

 

directed by Albert and David Maysles, Ellen Hovde and Muffie Meyer
USA 1975

 

From the filmmakers behind Salesman (1969) and The Rolling Stones’ Gimme Shelter (1970), the Maysles brothers present another of their “non-fiction features”, this time an impossibly intimate, absorbing insight into the lives of two eccentric and reclusive women: Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter Edie. As aunt and cousin to Jackie Onassis, “Big Edie” and “Little Edie” live together as high-society dropouts in a squalid mansion in wealthy East Hampton. What was once a grand summer residence has been reduced to a fortress of fleas, feral cats, and filth, the gardens long gone to seed and Big Edie and Little Edie confined to just a few of the twenty-eight rooms.

Together they invent a world with their house as a stage where life’s disappointments and pleasures are recycled into riveting performances, performances which have gone on to earn Little Edie’s reputation as a fashion genius and philosopher queen.

This true cult classic – which has inspired a current Broadway show, a centre page fashion spread in both Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, and a Hollywood “remake” – prompted the intervention of Jackie O. to save the couple from a hazardous health eviction order and any further “embarrassment” for the family.

***

The Maysles brothers pay visits to Edith Bouvier Beale, nearing 80, and her daughter Edie. Reclusive, the pair live with cats and raccoons in Grey Gardens, a crumbling mansion in East Hampton. Edith is dry and quick-witted - a singer, married but later separated, a member of high society. Edie is voluble, dresses - as she puts it - for combat in tight ensembles that include scarves wrapped around her head. There are hints that Edie came home 24 years before to be cared for rather than to care for her mother. The women address the camera, talking over each other, moving from the present to events years before. They're odd, with flinty affection for each other.

***

Grey Gardens is an intimate documentary portrait of two eccentric and reclusive women (cousins to the Bouvier family). Edith Beale and her daughter Edie are familiarly know as "Big" Edie and "Little" Edie. They live together in their quite dilapidated, garbage-ridden, 28-room house in and amongst a very wealthy area of East Hampton. Like their other documentaries, the Maysles Brothers (and their editors- who are often given directing credits) present an absolutely mesmerizing piece of work here.

To watch the interplay between this particular mother and daughter on a day to day basis is unlike anything I've ever seen. Their situation is an odd one. At some point, Little Edie (in her 50s when the film was made) returned home to care for her mother (who is nearly 80 at the time of filming). The two women have developed an antagonistically symbiotic relationship. They bicker with each other constantly (sometimes not so lovingly), feed their many cats (and raccoons), flirt with the Maysles and even often sing to each other. They never seem to leave their house really (the film takes place primarily in one bedroom and on an outside patio).

One of the fascinating things about the film is the way it reveals the little details of how these women arrived where they are. These details, like puzzle pieces, spring forth through conversations, photos and interactions between the two. In the end, one is still left with a slightly incomplete picture, but a spellbinding one. One can easily see that this the kind of film that can be equally revealing upon revisiting it as upon an initial viewing.

Brian Saur

 

Posters

 

Theatrical Release: September 27th, 1975

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Comparison: 

Masters of Cinema - Region 0 - NTSC vs. Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC vs. Criterion (Package with The Beals of Grey Gardens) - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 

1) Masters of Cinema - Region 0 - NTSC LEFT

2) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC SECOND

3) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC THIRD

4) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - RIGHT

 

Box Cover

Distribution

Eureka Master of Cinema - Spine # 43

Region 0 - NTSC

Criterion - Spine # 123

Region 0 - NTSC

Criterion (Package with The Beals of Grey Gardens) - Spine #123 + #361

Region 1 - NTSC

Criterion Collection - Spine #123 + 361
Region 'A' -Blu-ray

The Beals of Grey Gardens DVD is also available separately from Criterion -

           

Runtime 1:35:12 1:40:15? 1:40:00? 1:35:23.134 + 1:31:18 (The Beals of Grey Garden)

Video

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 4.95 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.8 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 8.58 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 47,355,321,725 bytes

Feature: 27,201,638,400 bytes

Video Bitrate: 33.69 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate : Masters of Cinema

Bitrate : Criterion

Bitrate: Criterion (Package with The Beals of Grey Gardens)

Bitrate: Criterion Blu-ray

Audio English (Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono) English (Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono) English (Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono) LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Subtitles English, None English, None English, None English (SDH), None
Features Release Information:
Studio:
Eureka - MoC

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect ratio - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• ALBERT MAYSLES ON GREY GARDENS – An exclusive new interview filmed in 2006 [32 minutes]
• JERRY’s CAB – Albert finds ‘the Marble Faun’ driving a New York taxi, 2005 [10 minutes]
• PAST AND PRESENT – Albert and ‘the Marble Faun’ revisit Grey Gardens, 2005 [10 minutes]
• 40-PAGE BOOKLET containing rare vintage photography and an expanded essay by Jonathan B. Vogels
• Original theatrical and TV trailers


DVD Release Date: April 30th, 2007
Transparent Keep case

Chapters 24

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect ratio - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Audio commentary by filmmakers Albert Maysles, Ellen Hovde, Muffie Meyer, and Susan Froemke
• Excerpts from a recorded interview with Little Edie Beale by Kathryn G. Graham for Interview magazine (1976)
• Video interviews with fashion designers Todd Oldham and John Bartlett on the influence of Grey Gardens
• Behind-the-scenes photographs
• Trailers
• Filmographies

DVD Release Date: August 14th, 2001
Keep case

Chapters 25

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion (Package with The Beals of Grey Gardens)
 

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect ratio - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Audio commentary by filmmakers Albert Maysles, Ellen Hovde, Muffie Meyer, and Susan Froemke
• Excerpts from a recorded interview with Little Edie Beale by Kathryn G. Graham for Interview magazine (1976)
• Video interviews with fashion designers Todd Oldham and John Bartlett on the influence of Grey Gardens
• Behind-the-scenes photographs
• Trailers
• Filmographies
 

DVD Release Date: December 5th, 2006
Transparent Keep Case inside cardboard box

Chapters 25

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion (Package with The Beals of Grey Gardens)
 

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect ratio - 1.33:1

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 47,355,321,725 bytes

Feature: 27,201,638,400 bytes

Video Bitrate: 33.69 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Edition Details:
• 2001 Audio commentary by filmmakers Albert Maysles, Ellen Hovde, Muffie Meyer, and Susan Froemke
• Excerpts from a recorded interview with Little Edie Beale by Kathryn G. Graham for Interview magazine (1976) - 40:51
• Video interviews with fashion designers Todd Oldham (5:25) and John Bartlett (5:23) on the influence of Grey Gardens
• Scrapbook (Family Album, Behind the Scenes, Cats)
• Trailer (2:15) + TV Spots (:38)

Liner Notes booklet featuring an essay by critic Hilton Als
 

Blu-ray Release Date: December 10th, 2013
Transparent
Blu-ray Case
Chapters: 24

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

 

ADDITION: Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray (December 2013): Firstly, the amount of additional information in the frame is substantial. This Blu-ray transfer is described as "a new 2K digital film restoration, approved by co-director Albert Maysles." It brightens, colors, for the most part, become much more realistic and the film's textures are more prevalent than in SD - but I still can't get over how much extra information is in the frame in the 1080P visuals. Wow. I don't want to comment much as the film has a very depressing effect on me. I have a friend who is, kind of, a shut-in and it is enormously sad.

 

The audio is now lossless in a linear PCM mono track (original) and there are optional English subtitles on the Region 'A'-locked disc.

 

Extras duplicate the DVD with the commentary from 2001 and inclusion of The Beals of Grey Gardens - also in 1080P also sharing the lone Blu-ray - and the Scrap Book photos, interviews, trailer and a TV Spot are here. The package contains a liner notes booklet featuring an essay by critic Hilton Als.

 

Each time I see Grey Gardens I seem to take it more to heart and this high resolution did a number on my emotions. I'm going to lie down now. R.I.P. ladies.

 

***

ADDITION - Eureka - Master of Cinema - NTSC - May 07': Unlike Salesman there are some differences in the image appearance between the Criterion and the Masters of Cinema releases. The UK edition is stated as 'New restored transfer licenced from Maysles Films'. I suspect that the 'restored' part (of which no mention is made on the corresponding Criterion) refers to some delicate digital enhancement done my MoC, which is definitely brighter and colors look that much richer (but not unduly altered). Framing appears the same but the MoC does not show the infrequent 'combing' (see last capture - tall grass) that the Criterion does. Overall the MoC image is slightly superior in my opinion.

All three editions offer the audio in original mono and there were no fatally noticeable dropouts or hiss. All editions offer English subtitles as well but as with Salesman - Moc have redone them for the UK, Anglicising words -- like "humor" > "humour", "tire" > "tyre", "recognize" > "recognise".

The bulk of the differences are represented in the supplements. The Criterions (both) are duplicated - offering the commentary, recorded interview with Little Edie Beale and video interviews with fashion designers Todd Oldham and John Bartlett on the influence of Grey Gardens. MoC counterpunch with almost an hour's worth of updated material, 3 featurettes, - the interview with Maysles, the unusual 'cab ride' and the interesting re-visitation of the Grey Gardens property. MoC have also put together a fabulous booklet with an extensive essay, drawings, and photos (color and vintage). Very professionally bound together - quite a keepsake.   

NOTE: the time difference is because at the end of both Criterion transfers are color bars and a brief 6 image slideshow that is not present on the Masters of Cinema DVD.

I like the Masters of Cinema edition best I think, although with the Criterion package you do get the 1.5 hour The Beales of Grey Garden (although that can be bought separately). Bottom line is that all three are respectful collections with enough love and appreciation involved that it would be silly to choose one over the other. We suggest buying whichever is easiest for you to purchase - timeless and unforgettable cinema at your fingertips. 

***

On the Criterions: Well, I'm at a loss to figure this one out. Criterion state that this is a 'new digital transfer' on Grey Gardens... and it is - well, the VOB files on the DVD have an August 2006 date. But aside from the packaging and that the menus are a shade darker (and have the Criterion logo - askew 'C' - in the corner) this appears to be the exact same DVD. I see virtually no discernable difference in the image, audio, subtitles or supplements. BUT the bigger mystery is the bitrate - which is substantially higher on the new edition. They both even have the same slight 'combing' in the same spots (we believe this is due to the alchemist method of transfer). ?!?!? The new release might be very marginally brighter, but that's a stretch and its all I can determine. Perhaps someone in the know can inform us

I suppose, more obviously, the package does differ in that it includes "The Beals of Grey Gardens' - a new Criterion DVD labeled spine #361. A 1.5 hour - kind of 'part deux' culled from unused footage from the first go round. It continues with lengthening the visitation hence bearing the same eclectic charm of the initial documentary. It has an 8 1/2 minute introduction by an aged Albert Maysles (80 years and counting). It expectantly is looking a little worse for wear than the original Grey Gardens release and is not transferred progressively (for shame). It certainly is worthwhile viewing if you enjoyed Grey Gardens. Obviously if you already own Grey Gardens - we suggest only picking up The Beals of Grey Garden DVD - not the package.  

Gary W. Tooze

 

Criterion REISSUE Packaging

 



DVD Menus

 

Masters of Cinema - Region 0 - NTSC

 



(Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT vs. Criterion (Package with The Beals of Grey Gardens) - Region 1 - NTSC RIGHT)

 

 

Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 


CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Screen Captures

 

1) Masters of Cinema - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC SECOND

3) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC THIRD

4) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM


Subtitle Sample: We continue to have difficulty obtaining subtitle captures on English language Criterion releases (but they do exist).

 

 


 

1) Masters of Cinema - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC SECOND

3) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC THIRD

4) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


 

1) Masters of Cinema - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC SECOND

3) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC THIRD

4) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Masters of Cinema - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC SECOND

3) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC THIRD

4) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Masters of Cinema - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC SECOND

3) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC THIRD

4) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


1) Masters of Cinema - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC SECOND

3) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC THIRD

4) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Masters of Cinema - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC SECOND

3) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC THIRD

4) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Masters of Cinema - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC SECOND

3) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC THIRD

4) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Masters of Cinema - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC SECOND

3) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC THIRD

4) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

NOTE: Sporadic combing evident in both Criterion releases - possibly brought on my 'alchemist' transfer method, MoC has none

 


 

 

 

The 1976 cinema vérité classic Grey Gardens, which captured in remarkable close-up the lives of the eccentric East Hampton recluses Big and Little Edie Beale, has spawned everything from a midnight-movie cult following to a Broadway musical, to an upcoming Hollywood adaptation. The filmmakers then went back to their vaults of footage to create part two, The Beales of Grey Gardens, a tribute both to these indomitable women and to the original landmark documentary’s legions of fans, who have made them American counterculture icons.


DVD Menus

 

 


 

 


 

 


 

Box Cover

Distribution

Eureka Master of Cinema - Spine # 43

Region 0 - NTSC

Criterion - Spine # 123

Region 0 - NTSC

Criterion (Package with The Beals of Grey Gardens) - Spine #123 + #361

Region 1 - NTSC

Criterion Collection - Spine #123 + 361
Region 'A' -Blu-ray

The Beals of Grey Gardens DVD is also available separately from Criterion -

           

 

Report Card:

 

Image:

Blu-ray

Sound:

Blu-ray

Extras: inclusion of The Beales of Grey Gardens in DVD and Blu-ray package

 


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Gary Tooze

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