Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s
People who take fashion seriously are idiots.
— Joan Rivers
Rivers says this at the beginning of the film. Brilliantly directed by Matthew Miele, however, what follows is a parade of people who take fashion very seriously. This is a delightful, informative, educational, and highly entertaining documentary about the 111-year history of the iconic New York department store Bergdorf Goodman. The title is from one of The New Yorker’s classic cartoons by Victoria Roberts.
Fashion maven after fashion maven appears before the cameras to tell the importance of Bergdorf to fashion and their careers. However, even though the production values of this film are extraordinarily high, the filmmakers make the same mistake made by most documentary makers in that they identify the talking heads by an identifying graphic the first couple of times they appear on the screen, then no more. This is a problem because there are so many people whose faces are unfamiliar to ordinary viewers that it is not possible to remember who is who. Whenever somebody appears on the screen, that person should be identified by a graphic throughout the entire film to refresh the viewer’s memory.
Appearing throughout the film are Giorgio Armani, Candice Bergen, Manolo Blahnik, Dolce & Gabbana, Marc Jacobs, Naeem Khan, Michael Kors, Karl Lagerfeld, Lauren Bush, Susan Lucci, Christian Louboutin, Catherine Malandrino, Gilles Mendel, Isaac Mizrahi, Ashley Olsen and Mary-Kate Olsen, Thakoon Panichgul, Rivers and Jason Wu, and this is just the short list.
But better than all these designers and stars are the detailed stories of the employees who make the store such a special place, including fashion director Linda Fargo, the powerful woman who makes the career-making (or breaking) decision of which new designer gets in and which doesn’t; window decorator David Hoey who makes the Bergdorf Christmas windows look like they should be displayed in an art gallery; and personal shopper Betty Halbreich, who helps A-list movie stars, politicians, and fashionistas make their choices. Her caustic wit is responsible for some of the biggest laughs provided by the film.
There are so many wonderful anecdotes that I don’t want to spoil the film by repeating them. However just as an example, the story is told that one Christmas Eve, Yoko Ono called at closing time and said that she and John Lennon wanted to come down and look at some fur coats. Naturally, because of who they were, the store remained open for them. Yoko arrived, but they had to wait two hours for John to come. When he finally arrived they ended up buying 80 fur coats, one each for their entire staff, at a cost of over $2 million.
While I was looking forward to this, because I do like documentaries, even in my anticipation I could not have realized how entertaining this is, clearly one of the most entertaining films of the year. The photography is beautiful, and the graphics are large, shadowed, and easy to read.
There are also some fantastic pictures of New York from the beginning of the 20th century. Bergdorf’s is on Fifth Avenue at 57th Street, right across the street from the Plaza Hotel, so the photographs are of a location that should be familiar to the vast majority of people.
I’m not going to give away any spoilers, but when you learn what the Bergdorf salespeople make, your jaw will drop.
This is a terrific film about two lonely, vulnerable, middle-aged people and the emotions they go through when they both travel, separately, to Italy for the marriage of their children to one another. The acting by Pierce Brosnan and Trine Dyrholm is nothing short of spectacular. However, despite the title, this has nothing to do with The Beatles (whose song was entitled, “All You Need Is Love”).
Directed by Susanne Bier from a story by Bier and Anders Thomas Jensen, who wrote the screenplay, this is a tender, sensitive, romantic film that also presents terrific shots of Sorrento by director of photography Morten Søborg and music by composer Johan Söderqvist that is at once lighthearted and magical, and also touching and affective. Dean Martin’s 1953 megahit “That’s Amore” is played throughout, enhancing the romance. It’s the rare film that gets me to laugh and cry within the space of 110 minutes.
40 year-old Dyrholm gives an award–quality performance as a woman battling cancer, dealing with a cheating husband, all the while being a good, understanding mother to her two children and flashing one of the best smiles on film. I have rarely seen a performance as good as the one she gives here. But that should not be too surprising, as she appeared in the best movie I saw last year, A Royal Affair. After Alec Baldwin saw her in Troubled Water (2008), he called her the best actress ever. After seeing her performance here, I cannot disagree with him.
After decades as an actor, Brosnan reaches his peak with this role. He’s wasted his time with a lot of junk, like being a not very convincing James Bond, participating in a horrible cast in Mamma Mia, and he was as horrible in that as everybody else. But occasionally, I should say rarely, he has branched out and taken roles that require talent and range. He was good in The Ghost Writer (2010) and much better in The Matador (also 2010). But here he reaches his zenith.
The supporting cast is equally good. Paprika Steen is convincing as Brosnan’s hateful sister-in-law. Kim Bodnia is Dyrholm’s equally unappealing husband. Sebastian Jessen is a Hugh Grant look-alike as Brosnan’s son. Molly Blixt Egelind and Christiane Schaumburg-Müller round out the cast giving good performances as Dyrholm’s daughter and Bodia’s mistress, respectively.
This movie has several twists and turns, but it proceeds apace and, like most good films, it’s best seen not knowing much about what’s going to happen. 110 minutes might sound like a long time for a film like this, but the time never dragged for me. In English, Danish, and Italian.