By: Addison Wylie
Fashion icon Iris Apfel has such wonderment, such humbling intellect, and such bewildered enthusiasm. She’s firm, but looks at her fame as dazed and unfazed. Her presence is infectious, and in Albert Maysles’ documentary Iris, she helps raise the film to another level. Without her, the audience would be stuck with Maysles’ cut-and-dry traditional filmmaking.
Movie goers are taken through Apfel’s influential history, and observe her optimism when others appreciate her opinion. She graciously considers other styles, and refuses to see a difference in age. She doesn’t set out to be inspiring with aggression and her confidence and concerns are naturally admirable, which in turn stimulates those who believe they’ve found a unique individual look.
Her marriage with Carl Apfel is cute, and Maysles knows it. He knows when the dry wit and funny banter between this adorable couple adds character to his film, and he’s careful not to exploit it. The same can be said for confrontations featuring Apfel bargaining and talking shop with merchants and fellow fashion lovers.
However, it’s hard not to think about Advanced Style – a sensational doc that follows similar guidelines when expressing themes of classily maturing with age and experience, and finding the secret to living a full life. Iris is nowhere near as bountiful or glamorous as Advanced Style was. Instead, Maysles sticks with a traditional structure with generic music choices.
Iris delivers the information well, but the doc is more interested in mirroring Apfel’s modesty rather than reflecting on her fabulous personality. That’s okay, but it makes for a dry documentary.