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Going with the grain in That Summer

31 May, 2018 — By Dan Carrier

Andy Warhol in That Summer. © Jonas Mekas/courtesy of Re Voir

THAT SUMMER
Directed by Göran Olsson
Certificate PG
☆☆☆

IN the Gatsby years of jazz, Prohibition and startling glamour, Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale, and her daughter (confusingly and egotistically called Edith Bouvier Beale, “Little Edie”), made their home in a rambling, American clapboard house called Grey Gardens in the fashionable world of the Hamptons. And there they stayed put, allowing the home to disintegrate around them, for five-odd decades.

In 1972, Edie’s niece Lee Radziwill (who happened to be the sister of Jackie Kennedy) and her talented photographer boyfriend Peter Beard came to stay nearby. They brought with them a particularly swanky set – Truman Capote, Mick and Bianca Jagger, Andy Warhol, thinking it would be interesting to make a documentary about the life and times of the East Hamptons, and Radziwill hit on the idea that it might be interesting to ask her “extremely eccentric” aunt to narrate it…

This documentary is a rambling consideration of what they wanted to do and why, what the story of the Hamptons was, using footage shot by the couple, and with asides about what life was like in the New York art scene of the period.

It is cranky, odd, at times a trifle annoying, but Olsson’s film also shows what a superb photo­grapher Beard is, and how not all topics need a strong narrative arc to make a good documentary. It’s a little hypnotic, with grainy, 8mm – or 16mm – film footage showing waves coming in over time-worn rocks.

There is much here to engage those who have a particular liking of the Warhol group, but while there are flashes of interest – and brilliance – there is also a little too much that feels empty of real meaning.
Still, there is enough here to charm art lovers and offer those who have no interest in such matters a peek into an endearingly eccentric world.

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