When Iris appeared after the screening of her documentary, she was wearing a red feather boa coat. The director of publicity at the film Forum asked what it was like to work with Albert Maysles. She replied that when he called, she thought she’d better look into what he’d done before and she thought, so gritty. What will he do with me?
Then she was talking to someone who when she said she might turn down the Maysles offer– remarked: “Who are you to turn down Maysles? Are you crazy?!”
Thank goodness she accepted to be part of the documentary. The movie is a primer in how to age well. Of course, it helps that Iris Apfel was born to privilege, and managed her riches well, and married a man who was perfectly suited to her.
But that’s not enough. Iris and her husband started a business, Old World Weavers, which took classic textile patterns from ages past, and found the best woven fabric for the patterns. This sent them around the world in a quest to discover fabric that was hand made.
The crowning moment in the film to me, the quintessential shot, the arrival at subject that Maysles discovered after hours of footage regarding the appearance, the collecting, the assortment, and the images surrounding fashion, accessories, and fabric, is when the Peabody Museum is packing up the collection of 80 dresses that Iris has donated. Each piece is gently arranged and lovingly handled with rubber gloves, then packed with tissue paper and put in an oblong cardboard box for shipment to Boston.
Iris touches some of them with bare hands, and remarks on the hand made fabrics, the textures, etc. These boxes cannot help but make you think of coffins. Iris at the end of her life bids farewell to her most precious possessions, and we feel privileged to witness the eulogies she gently gives them.
Equally elegiac is the rare shot of Albert Maysles who obviously enjoys being with Iris as she does with him. Maysles applies his direct cinema style to the movie, allowing the narrative to develop as he holds the camera.
Albert Maysles died in March at the age of 88. Iris adds to his body of work another compassionate portrait of a unique individual whose life is made fascinating by the gentle gaze of the director.