Iris is one of the last completed films from the great American documentary-maker Albert Maysles, who died earlier this year. It shares some of the hallmarks of his most celebrated works like Salesman and Grey Gardens (which he co-directed with his brother, David.) It is an intimate portrait of a very eccentric subject. Iris Apfel is a venerable New York fashion guru in her early nineties. She wears huge spectacles that make her look like a character in a Pixar cartoon, and dresses in very flamboyant fashion, in bangles, necklace, scarves and multi-coloured dresses. "There is so much same-ness. Everything is homogenised. I hate it," we hear her protesting early on.
In extreme old age, Iris retains her work ethic, her curiosity and her humour. She is a kindly person who effortlessly enraptures almost everyone she meets, whether they are academics, designers, photographers, students, or Maysles himself. Iris also has a mania for collecting, hoarding jewellery, clothes, fabrics and bric-a-brac. Her husband Carl, who dotes on her, is 100 years old. With their Christmas toys and decorations and their love of parties, they seem like kids.
Iris has trenchant points to make about changes in the fashion industry. As she notes, all "the great hand-crafted trades are going down the tubes". She is frank about the toll her ailments are taking on her but working in fashion is her antidote to ageing. This isn't one of Maysles' more penetrating films. It's a gentle and affectionate ramble round its subject, who uses her charm to keep the film-maker at a safe distance.Reuse content