This is a magnificent memory piece about a time and place that no longer exists...for good or ill. The Hamptons were being discovered, soon to be over-whelmed with tourists drawn to rub shoulders with the very people portrayed in the film. Their reality was unique and not something anyone could just enter.
While primarily centered on the eccentric Beale's, cultural icons Big Edie and Little Edie, others floating around are Warhol, Capote, Peter Beard, Aristotle and Jackie Onassis, all defy what we assumed or knew about them from the media. The film is an aching meditation on change and loss, treating everyone with enormous compassion, which we often don't necessarily attribute to this set of people.
Artfully assembled, the opening Prologue about Peter Beard's artistry is hard to leave, but the unedited footage of 16mm "home movies" that was to be later assembled by Beard and Lee Radziwill--who is stunning in her kind acceptance of her Aunt and Cousin's "reality," as is Beard--is the heart of the film.
The project was abandoned, and Beard discovering the footage after the fame of "Gray Gardens", simply runs four undiscovered reels without any editing. It's an extension of his techniques as a photographic collage artist. The jarring occasional intrusion of "normal," represented by Building Code inspectors, electricians, plumbers and Health Department personnel really highlights how rarified this group of celebrities and artists were. It recalls a period, for those who lived through it, that's realized casually but vividly; and, along with the creators, you mourn the loss and passing of an era.
That summer, the end of an era
By: Michael Fargo