Directed by Albert Maysles
From The Rolling Stones to the Edie Beales, Albert Maysles has profiled some of the most interesting people on the planet. In his final solo-directed film IRIS, the 87-year-old follows fashion icon Iris Apfel as she goes about her daily life in New York City.
Apfel is 93-years old and lives with her 99-year-old husband Carl. Even in their nineties, the two have more energy than most people a quarter of their ages. In the vein of ADVANCED STYLE, IRIS presents a fashion icon as she strives to spread her love of clothing, whilst always wearing the best outfit. Apfel clearly loves her work, but some of the film’s best moments come when Maysles catches her with her guard down. At 93 years old, Apfel does not have time to take anyone’s crap. One of the film’s best scenes shows her haggling with a shop owner in Harlem over a pair of cheap bracelets. The little old lady is ready to lose the smile when need be.
Maysles is famous for pioneering the observational cinema movement with films such as SALESMAN and GREY GARDENS. Observational filmmakers avoid interviews, and try to film their subjects as a fly on the wall. Maysles appears to have made compromises to his observational style in IRIS, which features a few talking head interviews as well as Apfel’s interaction with the director. This does not necessarily weaken the film, but it veers off of Maysles unique style making the film appear more generic.
Many of the most memorable scenes are the one’s that depict Apfel’s relationship with her husband. At Carl’s 100th birthday party, Iris helps him blow out his candles. Moments like these remind us that while Iris can be brash, she’s a dear at heart. Ultimately, IRIS is a nice, little film, but it doesn’t dig deep enough to make it an extremely memorable portrait. Regardless, Apfel is truly delightful, and is a pleasure to spend an hour and a half with.