Film review: Iris

by / May. 21, 2015 3pm EST

The late Albert Maysles (he died on March 5), one-half of the fraternal duo – with David Maysles – that gave us Grey Gardens years ago, left us this documentary, a discerning portrait of Iris Apfel, flamboyantly self-assured maven of style and exponent of the life force.  She is the 94-year-old widow of a wealthy New York textile manufacturer who has become an outsized personality in the café society world where fashion and high art are conjoined.

Apfel is a high-profile exponent of individual expression through personal style.  Her social currency sharply increased in value after the 2005 opening of a smash Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition of some of her eccentrically colorful and unusually combined personal clothing and costumes.  In the circles that focus on, and revel in, celebrity fashion – and today they include Hollywood, international art practitioners, purveyors of very high-end décor, and glossy journalism – Apfel is a star.

Maysles’ movie captures the whirl and celebration around her, but it also picks up on a subtler counter-dynamic: a soft-pedaled condescension by some doyens, and a possible envy of this assertive, showy, but not imperceptive woman. It opens Friday at the Eastern Hills Cinema.