“That Summer:” The Doc that Takes You Back Before “Grey Gardens”

Written by | Entertainment, Screen

that summer

Image courtesy Peter Beard

Those who love the unflinching documentary Grey Gardens will be happy to know that there’s more to be seen of its subjects in this film that is, in many ways, an even closer look at what was already a rather wrenching portrait. The footage comes from two years before the legendary Maysles brothers would return to the filthy East Hampton estate that was Grey Gardens to document the lives of the eccentric aunt and cousin of former first lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. The brothers served as crew on a documentary project with basically the same mission as their eventual masterpiece. Together with the beautiful and fashionable younger sister of Jackie, Lee Radziwill, and their mutual friend, artist Peter Beard, they made the first filmed incursion into the curious and decaying world of ‘Big’ and ‘Little’ Eddie Beale. Already a part of a fabulous gaggle of artists frequenting Montauk (including Andy Warhol and his cohorts from The Factory and sometimes even Truman Capote), Radziwill and Beard’s goal was to show how the Hamptons were changing. Who would serve as a better example than these two marvelously strange women so adept at living in the past? Göran Hugo Olsson assembles a wealth of footage — some lost for 45 years — to provide an even more candid visit with the Beales. That Summer is less controlled than the Maysles’ Grey Gardens, but no less compelling. A cold open of Peter Beard displaying his photo collages sets the scene of that summer — of beautiful celebrities and American royalty hanging out and being fabulous, and both Radziwill and Beard (who was truly movie-star handsome) continue to narrate throughout the film. THE WORD: It’s almost as adept at conjuring the past as the Beales themselves. COMING TO: Theaters

Last modified: January 22, 2019

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