“The newly rich are doing well but we old rich are the new poor.” So sayeth the fifty-something Anne Mette, in just one of her many Oscar Wilde-like bon mots. The younger half of the female Danish duo at the center of Eva Mulvad’s The Good Life, Anne Mette and her elderly mum have downsized from their vast villa and now reside in a tiny apartment in Portugal on income from a single pension. And while the parallels of Mulvad’s film to the Maysles’ classic Grey Gardens are obvious in its portrait of a somewhat dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship and the fact that these once wealthy women are now living in poverty (if not exactly squalor), what struck me most was the biggest difference between the two docs. Unlike with Little Edie and Big Edie, no one can accuse either the unabashedly eccentric Anne Mette or her stoic mother of one ounce of insanity. Which is what makes The Good Life all the more heartbreaking. These strong-willed dames whose banter plays like a vaudeville act not only aren’t in denial, they are painfully aware of all that they’ve lost.
Fortunately, Lady Luck shined on me when I got to chat with the driven and down-to-earth Eva Mulvad – who I’ve been wanting to interview ever since her intoxicating doc caught me by surprise at last November’s International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam – at the decidedly chichi Trump Soho Hotel when she was in NYC for the flick’s North American premiere at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.