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The crisis of performance and performance of crisis: The powers of the false in Grey Gardens (1976)

Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift
Författare Anna Backman Rogers
Publicerad i Studies in Documentary Film
Volym 9
Nummer/häfte 2
Sidor 114-126
ISSN 1750-3280
Publiceringsår 2015
Publicerad vid Institutionen för kulturvetenskaper
Sidor 114-126
Språk en
Länkar dx.doi.org/10.1080/17503280.2015.10...
Ämneskategorier Kulturstudier, Filmvetenskap


The documentary Grey Gardens (1976) is now a landmark film both in terms of the 'Direct Cinema' movement and the Maysles brothers' own oeuvre. It is in this film, in contrast to their previous work, that the limitation (and, by extension, the impossibility) of being able to record reality objectively is most apparent; the act of filmmaking is transformative and alters both the filmmaker and the subject. If the line between subjectivity and objectivity is blurred in Grey Gardens, what kind of 'truth' (if any) can be said to emerge from the film? In this article, with recourse to the Deleuzian notion of 'the powers of the false', I argue that Grey Gardens lays open the 'becoming' of subjectivity and celebrates the creative powers implicated in the documentary process. That is, the film reveals the inherent performative and creative nature of selfhood as well as the inextricable link between the filmmaker and the documentary subject who are bound up in the inventive and always provisional modes in which meaning and 'truth' are made. As we bear witness to the manifold ways in which the Beales perform for the camera, recall and 're-create' their past lives and former selves, we come to understand that the story they present to us is not one that is 'false', but one that discloses 'the powers of the false' as a mode of positive creation. As a result, contrary to the opprobrium of contemporary critics and scholars who denounced the film upon its release as depraved, sad and exploitative, it is clear that the aim of the film is not to offer us a place from which to judge the Beales in the name of a higher truth, but to reveal the 'truth' of cinema. © 2015 Taylor & Francis.

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