Rated PG-13. Running time: 1 hour 23 min.
Our content ratings (1-10): Violence 0; Language 0; Sex/Nudity 1.
Our star rating (1-5): 4
And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.
Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.
Albert Maysles’s documentary about New York fashion icon Iris Afert ought to be a tonic for all sad souls feeling the blues over their age. At 93 Iris is still going strong, giving speeches and accepting awards, and still shopping in upscale stores and flea markets for more gewgaws to store in her apartment that looks like an overstocked clothing and gift shop.
Furthermore, Carl, her beloved husband of more than 60 years is also in relatively good health, celebrating his 100th birthday during the course of the filming of the documentary. He has been his wife’s number one fan and supporter, organizing their numerous trips to the far corners of the world during which she buys trunk loads of clothing, jewelry, hats, and trinkets that fill their apartments back home. (The plural is not a mistake. If I heard right, the couple owns so much “stuff” that it requires a house and three apartments to contain it all.) The filmmaker uses lots of photographs and 16 mm footage shot by Carl during their travels.
The filmmaker obviously loves his subjects, with Iris often bantering with him as she shows off various items or models for him various assortments of clothing. Her eclectic tastes are at times way too much for me at times, but nonetheless I admire her creativity and sense of adventure in finding new combinations. So do the people at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. When they mounted a show around her in 2005, people flocked to it, spreading her already considerable fame even further. (As an interior decorator expert in fabrics she has worked at the White House several times.
She has even managed to acquire numerous variations of her trademark over-sized round glasses with lens almost as thick as the bottom of a coke bottle. Some of the frames are decorated with tiny beads. There is no doubt that wherever she goes she is the center of attention. But she does not come across as a totally self-centered person. We see several of her many encounters with young women, passing on to them some of her knowledge and experience. Her obvious affection for them is returned, no one regarding her as “a nice little old lady.”
Although I think Christ might question her obsession with clothing and jewelry, I believe he would applaud her child-like enthusiasm for life and beauty. This is an elderly person not content to let the world glide by, but one who still seeks to enjoy it to the full—and to share that joy with others. It is ironic that now, with the film’s subject well into her 90s, and with a husband over 100, it was the filmmaker who died—last March at the relatively young age of 89.
Not being a fan of fashion, I attended this film only because the one I wanted to see had to be canceled due to disk failure, and Iris was the only other film at the theater I had not seen. As it turns out, this was a happy accident. Iris is an ebullient person well worth the time getting to know, as lovely in her unique way as the flower after which she is named.