Review: IRIS, Albert Maysles' Last Solo Film
Meet Iris. The most precious 91-year-old on Earth. Now meet Iris, the most charming documentary about the most darling 91-year-old on Earth. (Note: Iris is now 93, which means this cover girl is still en vogue.)
Iris is directed by the late, legendary pioneer Albert Maysles (Grey Gardens, Gimme Shelter) and documents the life of the jazzy, posh Iris Apbel, who made fashion her bitch. "If you hang around long enough, everything comes back," she says with a zippy, wide smile. (This means you can breathe easy, parachute pants will be cool again, someday.)
Her wardrobe is based on what she finds while thrifting and window shopping, and now, whatever fashion designers send her. Just like the film, Iris' pizazz is untouchable. She's now 93, a fashion icon, and still full of life. Think about that the next time you slither on your couch.
Iris continues the tradition of Maysles' style of fly-on-the-wall filmmaking. You forget he's there until someone, and in this case, Iris, addresses him -- which she does quite often and in the most endearing ways. We even see Maysles while she's praising him to folks around her, and he doesn't break concentration when another cameraman pans to him during that moment -- when shooting, he was always in the zone. There will never be another like him.
Much like Grey Gardens, Maysles just follows Iris around while she struts her daily routine and charms with her banter on life and fashion. Mostly we see her shopping, or sometimes it's at events where she's overwhelmed as the guest of honor. It's the best kind of organic guerrilla filmmaking. Maysles was one of a kind.
The only moments that are more mundane and less enjoyable are when Iris switches to talking heads with folks who know or are fans of Iris, and gush about her. All we really need is Maysles and his camera on Iris to know how fascinating she is. The advantage of the talking heads in this doc is when it's just Iris and her husband, who she still dresses to this very day and clearly loves dearly. You want to see what true love looks like? Watch Iris.
Maysles passed away early last month at the age of 88. Until his death, this sweet man has made more than 25 documentaries and been shooting commercials, TV episodes, and shorts for over 60 years. He was a machine. Although he's most famous for Grey Gardens and Gimme Shelte, the documentarian left behind an impressive body of work.
Knowing Maysles made the film already gives it instant credibility, but Iris' flamboyant personality is animated enough to make the film sweet, enchanting, and quite lovable. This firecracker has honed her belief in natural aging and shares her sound advice on aging -- that you should rock what you got -- and it's rather amazing.
Iris opens in select theaters in the U.S. via Magnolia Pictures on Wednesday, April 29.