Iris is a documentary by one half of the famed Maysles Brothers (Albert), about Iris Apfel, a 94 year old New York interior designer and style icon. I had never heard of or seen Iris before but from the moment you see her you can tell she is an interesting character and has a very unique sense of style. Told at a young age that she wasn’t pretty but that she had style, she seems to have got more stylish as she aged. From photos of her youth it’s very noticeable she became more flamboyant and unique over time. Iris is like an amalgamation of high-fashion and kitsch pop-art but with a worldly twist. In the film she says she doesn’t like “pretty”, because it’s boring. I agree with her but I actually found the documentary kinda boring and I seem to be in the minority.
To be honest I was only interested in watching this due to the fact that it was a Maysles film. If anyone else had directed it I probably wouldn’t have cared. But I felt the “Maysles factor” was a bit lacking, Iris interacts with him a few times but I felt like he never really probed too deeply, it all felt a bit sort of set-up and not as natural as say, Grey Gardens. I would have enjoyed seeing more of Iris in her homes and with her collections of clothes than giving lectures on style. It almost has a bit of a puff-piece feel to it, it’s just lacking a bit of substance. I found it interesting that she seems to be obscenely wealthy and yet her haggling with vendors was captured but not really explored – we see them living large, holidaying and buying things but it’s all just kinda show-y and doesn’t really seem that interesting. I think people are in love with Iris and the idea of being that fabulous at 94, but in terms of it being an exceptional documentary, I just can’t get on-board with the hype. It’s well worth a watch but don’t be shocked if you find it a tad boring.
It’s scary that I know 50 year olds who don’t have a quarter of the enthusiasm for life and passion for something that Iris has. She reminds you to be true to yourself and experiment. To never act your age and to always stand out. It’s refreshing to see someone be so brutal and honest. Iris likes to be called a “Geriatric Superstar” and thinks plastic surgery should only be for those with “noses like Pinocchio or burn victims”. While she has an interesting look and some insights, I feel like Maysles could have done a better job in making her an interesting topic. I don’t like sports but I loved Friday Night Lights and I’ve enjoyed documentaries on sports I don’t like. I think this documentary is probably more suited to fashion fans and those who know a bit about Iris.
If you loved Iris you’ll probably love the fascinating Florence Broadhurst, an Australian designer who was bludgeoned to death. The book Florence Broadhurst: Her Secret and Extraordinary Lives is well worth a read.
- Special Features:
Not much, just a theatrical trailer and some Madman trailers.
Available on R4 DVD from Madman Entertainment.