Docville honours Albert Maysles and celebrates spring with colourful and exuberant Iris

iris apfel

RIDM, Montreal’s documentary film festival, takes place in November, but festival organizers keep film fans supplied with documentaries throughout the year via the monthly Docville program.

The presentation for Thursday, April 30, 2015, is Iris, a portrait of 93-year-old New York style icon Iris Apfel. It was the second-to-last film made by director Albert Maysles who died on March 5, 2015 at age 88.

You might have seen Iris Apfel in the documentaries Bill Cunningham, New York (2010), directed by Richard Press, or Bury My Ashes at Bergdorf’s (2013) by Matthew Miele. Both films were shown here in Montreal at Cinema du Parc.

The documentary Iris is a portrait of fashion legend Iris Apfel, directed by Albert Maysles.
The documentary Iris is a portrait of fashion legend Iris Apfel, directed by Albert Maysles.

Once seen, Apfel is not easily forgotten. She likes to wear several large necklaces at once, and covers her arms in chunky bracelets. As a look at the trailer below will show you, she isn’t one of those people who wears black all the time. More power to her, I say! The world is full of colour, so why not enjoy it as much as possible and as long as possible?
Many critics have praised the film and the obvious rapport that existed between Maysles and Apfel. (Certainly, they had time to get to know one another – Apfel told Vogue magazine that the film was shot “on and off for four years.”)

Manohla Dargis of the New York Times says: “There are few better ways right now to spend 80 movie minutes than to see Iris, a delightful eye-opener about life, love, statement eyeglasses, bracelets the size of tricycle tires and the art of making the grandest of entrances. . . this is a documentary about a very different kind of woman who holds your imagination from the moment she appears. You can’t take your eyes off Iris Apfel (she wouldn’t have it any other way), but, then, why would you want to?”

Stephanie Zacharek of the Village Voice says: “like all good documentaries, Iris is about much more than what we see on the surface, no matter how dazzling that surface may be. . . Iris is more than just a movie about an amusing lady who likes clothes an awful lot. It’s also a celebration of the revivifying power of creativity. . .Maysles’s camera opens its eyes wide to Apfel, taking the measure of her wildly beautiful and witty outfits as if it can hardly believe what it sees. There’s delight here in Maysles’s way of seeing. . .It’s also very quietly moving, considering that it’s not about growing old, but about already being there.”

Richard Brody of the New Yorker says: “The warm relationship between Apfel and Maysles comes through from the start, as she playfully shows off some of her treasures and addresses him on-camera throughout. Maysles endearingly reveals Apfel’s blend of blind passion and keen practicality, her unflagging enthusiasm for transmitting her knowledge to young people, and her synoptic view of fashion as living history.”

Iris, directed by Albert Maysles, United States, 2014, 83 min., in the original English.
Thursday, April 30, 8 p.m., at Cinéma Excentris, 3536 St. Laurent Blvd.
Single screenings cost $12 ($10 for students and seniors).

Tickets can be bought online. Doing so might be a good idea, since the Facebook page for Iris already indicates that 261 people intend to go. The Salle Cassavetes only holds 271 people and more than 1,000 (!) have been invited.
(If you can’t make it to Thursday’s screening, Iris will open at Cinéma du Parc on May 29, 2015.)

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