The documentary “Iris” follows NYC fashion mainstay Iris Apfel, who is still a ubiquitous presence on the scene at the age of 93.
It’s a perfectly sweet and touching portrait of a woman who refuses to slow down despite her advanced age, following the style icon through meetings with Bergdorf Goodman, lectures to college students and tours of her homes filled with a mélange of quirky items amassed from across the globe.
This isn’t really an in-depth look at this individual’s history as a major fashion figure, however. If anything, it’s a bit slight, favoring a “fly-on-the-wall” approach to depicting her admirably active life.
Newbies to Iris and what she represents will appreciate her tenacity and bold and demonstrative style choices without necessarily understanding exactly what makes her so important.
And that’s fine, because the movie will be ultimately most remembered as the final solo film of the all-time great documentarian Albert Maysles, who perfected the art of direct cinema with his brother David in movies such as “Gimme Shelter” and “Grey Gardens,” among countless others over a career spanning more than half a century.
Albert Maysles died in March at age 88 and the movie is really about him as much as it is Iris, and not just in the shots of its maker studying his monitors or in Iris’ frequent addresses to him off camera.
The Maysles have always been a presence in their movies, which are ultimately commentaries on the ways the presence of a camera and the reality of a filmed image inexorably shape and transform real-life events.
“Iris,” then, really turns around the symbiotic relationship between filmmaker and subject; when Iris holds court on the importance of living a full life, keeping forever busy and refusing to slow down just because of the whims of Father Time, you can feel that she’s speaking for Albert, too.