Film Review: That Summer

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Göran Olsson assembled this prequel to the 1975 documentary Grey Gardens using long-lost footage that director Albert Maysles recently uncovered in a studio archive. Since the 4 reels alone weren’t enough to warrant a feature, Olsson added another layer by interviewing photographer Peter Beard about his involvement in That Summer that spawned a cult phenomenon. Uninitiated audiences may struggle to grasp the significance of the found footage. However, Big and Little Edies’ pre-existing fans will relish this early look at the eccentric recluses who lived in squalor despite their familial connection to Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy.

Not many documentaries earn a sequel, let alone instigate a franchise. But that’s what happened with Albert and David Maysles breakout hit. Grey Gardens warranted a sequel, a musical, a play, and a 2009 TV movie starring Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore. It was more than a precursor to Hoarders. It was a commentary on faded glory, high society, public image, and autonomy. But the much-beloved film happened almost by accident. Lee Bouvier Radziwell initially hired The Maysles and her then-boyfriend Peter Beard, to explore what became of the Bouvier sisters’ childhood summer stomping grounds. When the crew accompanied Radziwell to her relatives’ estate, they stumbled upon an unexpected and irresistible opportunity to capture the larger-than-life former socialites who were languishing in squalor…

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