art about art imitating life

finally! the trailer for HBO’s…i dont know what you’d call it…fictionalized historical remake of Gray Gardens!

….i dunno, we’ll see.
after seeing the original documentary i was really interested to find out who these women were before they became the lovable and wonderful but undeniably eccentric stars of Gray Gardens…and it seems like thats what this is going to be.

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however im not sure how i feel about the whole art about art imitating life thing.

i mean writing a ficticious account of the life and times of Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter Edith ‘Little Edie’ Bouvier Beale and having Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange act it out is one thing, but having them reinterpret the Edies from the documentary is another.
isn’t it?
first of all, the exploitive quality of a documentary is always in question. one can see why the Maysles brothers, the directors of the original documentary, would want to make a movie about these women. undeniably, the bizarre lifestyles of the Bouviers made them an intriguing study while their energy and tragic life stories humanized them.
personally, i think that the Maysles brothers were simply smitten with these two women and were fully interested in presenting the lives of big Edie and little Edie objectively and with out agenda. they let the women speak and act like themselves; they were not prodded into arguments or forced to make a spectacle of themselves, they were simply honest and that is what comes across to the audience.
and that is why they have become such beloved cult fodder. little Edie especially is the perfect blend of completely original fashion sense, bold wit, polished charm and broken-hearted socialite. it seemed only natural that someone would wish to reinterpret the documentary into a musical…

….and this is where i start to wonder…does this come across as a mocking parody or as a celebration of a beloved character? the Bouviers’ agreement to be filmed left them vulnerable to reinterpretation and exploitation. i understand appreciating art and referencing it in your own work, but to take a documentary, a film of real people being themselves, rewrite it for the stage, ADD SONGS and then find actors who exaggerate and characterize these real people…it just seems disrespectful and dehumanizing. mostly i feel the songs are what did it for me. i mean how farcical and flamboyant is that?! yes little Edie is dramatic and expressive and a dancer but a song is just so unnecessary…it caracturizes someone who is already over the top and funny and REAL.
and so i wonder…how will Drew and Jessica come across?
hopefully, the forty years of back story depicted in the HBO piece will humanize the Bouviers (Lange and Barrymore as the Bouviers) and create a story arc that makes the reinterpreted scenes from Gray Gardens fit.

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speaking of characterization vs humanization and reinterpretation, i was reminded of this NPR story about Trent Harris’ Beaver Trilogy, a “series of three pieces about the same subject, a young man from a small town called Beaver who is obsessed with Olivia Newton John. The first piece,”The Beaver Kid” is a documentary. The second piece, “Beaver Kid 2″ was shot with a home video camera. Beaver Kid 2 which stars Sean Penn is a dramatic work based on the documentary. The third piece,”The Orkly Kid” is yet another dramatic work based on the documentary, this time starring Crispin Glover.”
the NPR story, reruns discusses the piece around 5:30.
only some of the trilogy is available online…



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2 responses to “art about art imitating life

  1. Pingback: scary monsters//freak compassion « bashful confessions of a zombie romance

  2. Pingback: paper dolls on the runway « bashful confessions of a zombie romance

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