So, renowned documentary director Maysles, now in his eighties himself, turns his camera on the ninety-something fashion icon Iris Apfel and her long time husband Carl. That’s about it and, unfortunately, it doesn’t really add up to much of anything. Iris is an interesting character; she’s gained renown in the fashion world for her exuberantly ridiculous taste. She will quite literally wear anything with anything: she cuts up a priest’s vestments to make a pair of trousers, wears six gold bracelets on one arm and nothing on the other, carries a furry blue purse twice as big as her own head, buys a designer coat from a high-end fashion store and then haggles in order to get a discount as she’s pawing through the $1 bin at a swap meet. And she’s given to saying things that are quite pithy and funny at times. But this would really work better as a short film; there’s no emotional or narrative or even symbolic arc to this film – it’s just a collection of scenes that could start anywhere and end anywhere and basically be arranged in any order. By the end, the film was just spinning its wheels. It’s entertaining for a while. Maysles is often accused in his other films, like Grey Gardens or Gates of Heaven, of exploiting or mocking his subjects, but this film is really incredibly loving and affectionate, a bit too much, I think. It would be interesting to see Maysles play up Iris’ ludicrousness, but the film is too in love with her to do that. I don’t know if he’s softened with age or if this was just a conscious choice, but it makes the film seem substantially less interesting and controversial than his earlier movies. One great surprise was seeing Tavi Gevinson show up briefly, interviewing Iris at an event; I’ve been a fan of Gevinson since I saw her opposite Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Nicole Holofcener’s Enough Said and she works in film so rarely (being a seriously respected fashion journalist/publisher as well as an actress) that any glimpse of her is welcome. Anyway, this film has a few laughs and I do have to admit that I love Iris’ outfits just because of their strange garishness, but the film has nothing to really say and adds up to dull & uninspired. Average. Recommended against. 2 stars.
tl;dr – Maysles’ latest documentary focuses on an interestingly strange fashion icon, but it’s uninspired and ultimately has nothing to really say. 2 stars.