On a somewhat lighter note, the Maysles brothers’ Grey Gardens, from 1976. This could have come off very expose-like, with the cameras detailing for us the squalor of a couple of once-beautiful, once-prominent American aristocrats (Edith Bouvier Beale and “Little Edie” Beale, her daughter and cousin of Jackie Kennedy, who famously rescued their home from condemnation with some charitable spring-cleaning). Instead, it’s an affectionate paen to this somewhat (charmingly) demented duo. The fact that the behavior of the two women suggests a dilapidated, finally sad sitcom (when she’s not feverishly philosiphizing, Little Edie gripes perpetually at her recalcitrant mother about her missed life opportunities, creating a hilarious, snippy banter that does little to disguise either the Psycho-ish Freudian horror or the real familial love underlying it). The Maysles come off not as exploitative interlopers, but as friends who drop by and take home movies, providing a little desperately needed contact with “outside” people.” There’s actually something very compelling about the Edies’ way of keeping that icky “outside” world at bay, perhaps because, judged solely on that aspiration, they’re unqualified successes.

Breaking with my own hermetic tendencies, I actually left the house to catch Jeffrey Blitz’s much-discussed Spellbound, a documentary about eight teenagers from unique and disparate backgrounds who make it to the Washington, D.C. finals of the National Spelling Bee. Could Terminator 3 or 2 Fast, 2 Furious possibly be as riveting and nail-biting as watching these poor, brave kids sweat it out in front of the judges as they grasp for those damnedly elusive consonants and vowels that could spell victory or defeat? I really doubt it. The film is about so much more than the contest, though; it’s also a wonderful glimpse into the different socioeconomic backgrounds of these kids (“America’s future,” as we’re so fond of calling them), at times recalling Michael Apted’s 7 Up series.

In the time it’s taken me to actually come to the conclusion of this post, I’ve finished the Blumenthal book and am on to W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz, the extraordinary layout of which would have been the inspiration for the visual layout of this particular blog entry... except it seems I can't get any of the pictures I would've liked to include to work on this goddamn thing. Believe me, talking about the problems of creating a blog on my blog is not the sort of self-reflexiveness I find enjoyable in the slightest.
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