Not to be confused with the Judi Dench film of the same name about writer Iris Murdoch, this Iris is a documentary about a 93-year-old New Yorker whose enduring and individual sense of style has made her a fashion hero.
Iris Apfel now gets her own movie, a doc made by the legendary Albert Maysles who with his late brother David, shot such touchstones of the form as Grey Gardens and Gimme Shelter. Maysles features here in a few shots so it’s testament to him and his style, too – he died shortly after completing Iris, last March. So it’s really a film about keeping going, about loving what you do and how you do it.
Decked out with her trademark Magoo glasses, fashion’s newest star Iris swans about with an Upper East Side regality, recalling her various shopping expeditions, each piece of clothing or each salvaged chatchke with its own story.
Iris’ tough New York accent gives her a caustic aspect, though everything comes out witty and treasurable. I know you can say anything when you’re 93 and get away with it, but I get the feeling, too, that Iris has been much the same way since she was a little girl.
We go out with her to watch her haggle and we get the benefit of her worldly wisdom, watching her attend ceremonies, give lectures and sort out exhibitions. We potter about her apartments, knocking into baubles and browsing her miles of clothing rails.
There’s also her husband of 68 years, Carl, an aspect which lends the film a lovely romantic element too, making it as inspiring for the heart as for the many ways to wear a hat.
I loved the way Carl and Iris are together, finishing each other’s sentences, or in some cases, making sure they don’t finish just when he’s about to let slip some secrets from the vault of Iris’ memories – she was interior designer at The White House for 10 Presidents…
Hers is an American story that spans the last century. It’s a memoir and an armoire, a repository of her travels around the world and her appetite for collecting everything from the cheapest souvenir to the most valuable antique and re-appropriating it according her own secret recipe of taste.
Iris’ calm dignity abides throughout. She is unflustered and unflappable, as well as seemingly indefatigable. This film is about attitude, how you can look at life in a certain way, with a certain passion, and be who or what you want to be if you go for it and believe in your own style. And if you’ve got enough bangles, of course.
Hear my interview with Iris Apfel here.