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Iris - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Directing: B
Writing: B
Cinematography: B
Editing: B+

Did you used to hope one day to become famous, but got older and resigned to the expectation that it's never going to happen? Well, Iris Apfel became famous in her eighties. So there's still hope. You could get cataracts and get discovered later.

There is no question that Iris, now 93, is an extraordinary woman. This movie about her is, well, perhaps not -- but it's good enough. You get the sense that you would be quite moved and inspired by her very being if you saw her in person. Fun fact: the director of Iris is Albert Maysles, now 88. This is the guy who made the cult documentary Grey Gardens in 1975. It seems fitting that a film a geriatric woman should be made by a geriatric man. There are two ways to look at this: Iris is not a particularly special film by conventional standards. That it was made by an 88-year-old man is kind of amazing. Maysles stays behind the camera most of the time, but for one scene in which Iris gushes about how the older women he meets fawn over him.

This is only a brief detour from Iris's main object of affection -- just above fashion and accessorizing: her husband, Carl Apfel. This guy turns 100 on film. This was just last year, so he's not yet 101.

We can only hope to have this kind of energy at these people's ages. Carl spends a lot more time sitting down, but that seems forgivable for a 100-year-old. Iris never stops. She shops and shops, haggling everywhere, buying cheap jewelry that she turns into incredibly well matched accessories for persistently unique outfits. You don't have to be into fashion -- and I am not -- to appreciate this woman.

She was an interior designer, well known within her field but not the icon she is now. She has a stunning collection of clothes and accessories, which became the pieces in the first one-woman show (for a live woman) at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2005. The exhibition's unexpected word-of-mouth success is what made her the star she is today. She's instantly recognizable for her oversized, round black-framed glasses, and now there's a movie about her.

Iris is a remarkably self-possessed woman, a trailblazer in her own way, someone who has long known who she is. She's the perfect specimen of leading by example. In most other contexts, a movie like this would only attract audiences with a median age of 70. At least the screening I went to was filled with whipper snappers as young as in their forties. It's easy to be inspired by her, regardless of your age. Specially selected students from a fashion school go on tours around New York City with her, and are eager to hear what she has to say. She says a lot of pretty amusing stuff: she told one young man that the next time someone says they think she's dead, "Just tell them I'm very much alive, I'm just walking around to save on funeral expenses."

The movie is worth seeing, but falls far short of demanding a trip to the movie theatre. Films like this are better suited to cable, HBO perhaps. Even at only 83 minutes, it feels slightly overlong. It would have made a great hour-long documentary. This is the case with far too many films of this sort. Inevitably, Iris will indeed be shown on one of those cable channels. You should watch it. But you can wait until then.

Iris Apfel is the nonagenarian starlet of IRIS.

Overall: B
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