Documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles is known for treating his subjects with distance, allowing them to show themselves in ways that make us forget that they’re being filmed. In Iris, at the age of eighty-eight Maysles films Iris Apfel, herself also at a late age. Candid and at home in front of the camera, she appears to us as if nothing is staged or otherwise manipulated.
Apfel has curated a collection of clothing and accessories, and wears them in innovative arrangements. What she’s done is visionary, actually, considering how limited we all are in terms of what’s considered acceptable dress. To make the outrageous inspiring is a challenge for an artist, and Apfel is exceptionally creative in the arena of adornment, while also honoring how ephemeral the whole business is of loving the look of ourselves and the stuff of this world. “You don’t own anything here,” she tells us, “you only rent.” Spoken from a woman entering her ninth decade, these words sound ominously final, but also refreshingly inspiring, indicating as they do the secret to a long and vibrant life.