Iris Apfel, the quick-witted, flamboyantly dressed 93-year-old style maven, has had an outsized presence on the New York fashion scene for decades. Even at Iris' advanced age, a soaring free spirit continues to inspire a singular woman whose enthusiasm for fashion, art and people are life's sustenance and reminds us that dressing, and indeed life, is nothing but an experiment. Despite the abundance of glamour in her current life, she continues to embrace the values and work ethic established during a middle-class Queens upbringing during the Great Depression.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
She is wearing a lime green dress. A shiny lime green dress. She is 90. It's the opening of an exhibition devoted to her, Iris Apfel, at the Big Apfel's Costume Institute in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her dress is accessorised to the max, as are the mannequins inside, all wearing Iris' trademark oversized, round framed black rimmed glasses, dressed in a few of the thousands of outfits that fill the available cupbaord spaces of her two storey Park Avenue apartment.
"I worshipped my mother," she tells filmmaker Albert Maysles, "and my mother worshipped at the altar of the accessory." She mixes cheap with chic, says one of he many fans in the fashion business, and she herself admits she has no rules. "I would only break them. It's all gut."
She doesn't go out to buy, she goes out to find, she explains as she rummages through a costume jewellery store in Harlem, from where she has already collected many unique items. She doesn't like pretty, she says; "I wasn't pretty." Maybe not, but she always had style, says one fashionista.
Maysles, obviously a devoted fan, films her in shops, at fashion shows, in photo shoots and at home, sometimes with her husband Carl, who celebrates his 100th birthday on camera. Iris does the talking and helps him blow out the candles.
The film does her justice, which is saying something, given Iris Apfle's extraordinary life as interior decorator (including clients like the White House), fashion designer and artist. And she is still busy, fielding some 50 calls a day, according to her housekeeper.
Instead of pretty, she likes big, bold, pizazz; "colour can raise the dead," she claims. And maybe it's keeping her upright, as she calls it. That and a sense of humour, which she finds an essential attribute in people. For all the fakery that her lifestyle suggests, she is the genuine article, an authentic New York individualista.
As a snapshot of an exceptional woman, Iris is an uplifting and entetaining film; it lifts our spirits with the fuel of hers.
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IRIS (2015) (M)
CAST: Documentary with Carl Apfel, Iris Apfel
PRODUCER: Jennifer Ash Rudick, Laura Coxson, Rebekah Maysles
DIRECTOR: Albert Maysles
SCRIPT: Not credited
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Not credited
EDITOR: Paul Lovelace
MUSIC: Not credited
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Production management: Trace Henderson
RUNNING TIME: 80 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 13, 2015