For Reel

Iris (2014)
August 28, 2015, 11:16 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Albert Maysles
3 StarsIris
Albert Maysles (along with brother David) released Grey Gardens in 1975, a film that explored the lives of two eccentric relatives of Jackie Kennedy Onassis who inhabit a decaying mansion. His second-to-last documentary similarly involves an offbeat woman with an indiscriminate fashion sense, although in this case it’s a woman who lives the high society lifestyle that Big and Little Edie Beale had abandoned. In the earlier film, Little Edie often addressed the filmmakers, even aggressively flirting with them as they were being filmed. Similarly, Albert Maysles becomes a character in Iris–one which, again, is often referred to as attractive by the subject. But Maysles doesn’t so much seem interested in comparing himself to Iris Apfel as yet another aging artist, but rather he humbles himself as her protégé. In fact, the film’s weakness is that it largely serves as a hagiography, expelling Iris’ many virtues without risking the desire probe too deeply. Stylistically, it has more in common with the recent run of documentaries following aging stars like Elaine Stritch, Joan Rivers, and Bill Cunningham than it does with Gimme Shelter. But there are some beautiful moments near the end of the picture in which Iris espouses that we are all simply renting everything we own in life as she deliberates which of her pieces to sell or donate. Iris directly refers to the memories inherent to these material objects, and her transference of them suggests that she’s whittling down her life to the essentials in her late years, her remaining objects becoming a museum that best reflects the image she wishes to be associated with.

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