Iris (2015; dir. Albert Maysles)
—At long last, definitive proof of the link between shopping and immortality: Iris proves that the one who dies with the most toys doesn’t win because the one with the most toys apparently never dies. This fun, flirty, casual documentary about businesswoman/interior designer/high-class clothing empress and all-around sweetie Iris Apfel is both a glossy portrait of a great New York City character and an object lesson in the long-term health benefits of retail therapy. Apfel, a self-described “octogenarian starlet” who’s actually 93 (but who’s going to blame a pretty girl like her for fibbing about her age?), treats Maysles’ camera like an intimate acquaintance she’s known for years; she’s chatty, witty and curious but never gossipy, sarcastic or nosy. It’s easy to see why Carl, her centenarian husband of 66+ years, looks at her with ageless, amused enchantment.
It’s also easy to see why Carl lets her dress him up in whatever she thinks he looks good in. Her vaunted sense of style, like her gigantic, infinity-symbol-shaped black glasses, is loud, joyous and liberating; at times she pads herself so heavily in brightly colored fabrics, feathers, necklaces, bracelets and costume jewelry that she looks like a cross between a benevolent gay witch and a little kid sticking her head out of an overstuffed toybox. Her age-defying joie de vivre is no passing fad or put-on for the smitten cameras that surround her, and her gnarled, tree-root hands aren’t a sign of decline—they’re simply two additional accessories that go well with nearly everything.
is a communal experience; watch it with a bunch of friends or in a theater with a large audience so you can enjoy the waves of delighted chortles and flabbergasted barks that break whenever Apfel appears in a new outfit. Maysles’ final film offers grandiloquence with a smile and a wink. It’s the cat’s pajamas.