Few films revel in the glories of grotesquerie the way that "Grey Gardens" does. The exploits and holdings of Big Edie and Little Edie -- their run down house, their collection of cats, their earth-shaking screaming arguments -- are by now known by most. It’s an extremely rough portrait of loneliness and regret. And if it wasn’t rough enough already, the detail offered by the new high definition transfer makes it so.
The Blu-ray release of "Grey Gardens" is a straight-upgrade of the DVD -- if you already have Criterion’s last release, you’ve already seen all the special features. Yet if you’re a fan of the film, it may be worth picking up this latest release anyway: The film, sourced from a 2K restoration, looks better than ever before. It’s not that the colors pop -- but all prior releases gave the film a drab, washed-over look. Now it looks true. That works wonders for the compositions, but even further than that, it gives you closer detail on the ladies themselves, amping up the "performances" yet another degree.
The extras here, taken from the previous DVD as mentioned, are more than plentiful. First, there’s the standards: An introduction from co-director Albert Maysles, some trailers and TV spots, an audio commentary, some image collections (known here as scrapbooks,) and interviews with fans of the film, in this case Todd Oldham and John Bartlett.
There’s also more than forty minutes worth of audio excerpts from a 1976 interview with Little Edie, with the topics ranging from movie stars to the films itself to her biggest regrets in life. Finally, there’s the major special feature: "The Beales of Grey Gardens," a 90 minutes-ish second film, cobbled together from unused footage, originally created in 2006 and released shortly thereafter. It’s a low-key follow-up, as it were, featuring little of the ’narrative action’ and a fair bit less of the loudmouth blowups that defined the original. Yet the constant re-releases of the picture suggest that fans can’t get enough of this duo, so this literal extra feature can help to extend the relationship.