Grey Gardens (1975)
Directed by David Maysles, Albert Maysles, Ellen Hovde, and Muffie Meyer
In Harlan County, USA, we were reminded of the recent history of the ongoing war between Labor and Capitalism. It’s easy to forget how close we are to profound historical movements and that these conflicts never ended; they merely changed shape. The Gilded Age, one of the most horrific periods for Labor, was not as far back as we like to think, and in The Maysles’ Grey Gardens, a woman born during that period is prominently featured. History doesn’t have a stopping point; one moment flows into the next and carries humanity forward, and with it comes many of the unacknowledged problems of those eras, mixing with the issues of contemporary periods. Cultural detritus lodges itself into the culture’s psyche and leads to horrors. The story of the Beales is a horror story like that, neglect and the decay of beautiful things.
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Directed by Albert Maysles, David Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin
Cinéma vérité is a style of documentary filmmaking. It was developed by French philosopher Edgar Morin and his equally French collaborator Jean Rouch who made movies as an anthropologist. In turn, these two gentlemen derived the idea from Kino-Pravda, a series of 23 newsreels produced in the 1920s. Kino-Pravda translated from Russian into English as “film-truth,” with the intent to capture life unstaged & unperformed, simply as it happens.
Cinéma vérité is often referred to as the “observational style” of documentary filmmaking. There are rarely staged interviews; instead, the director and/or camera operator might have a conversation with the subject, and often their portions are pared down as much as possible so that the subject is the focus of all action. The goal is that the truth of the subject is revealed through what they say, akin to talk therapy in many ways, having them go through the actions of their life, resulting in their commentary on their own actions and then the realization of the meaning of their life. Or the reverse, the subject comes to no realization, but the audience expands their understanding of the human experience through observing a person in their natural environment.
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