My Ashes At Bergdorf’s (10/10)
time 93 minutes.
beginning of the film, Joan Rivers meows, "People who take fashion
seriously are idiots." 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.
maven after fashion maven appear 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 in 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 graphic throughout the entire film to refresh the viewer’s
Appearing throughout the film are Giorgio Armani, Candice Bergen, Manolo
Blahnik, Dolce & Gabanna, Marc Jacobs, Naeem Khan, Michael Kors, Karl
Lagerfeld, Lauren Bush Lauren, 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.
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 in 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.
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.
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.
are also some fantastic pictures of New York from the beginning of the
20th century. Bergdorf’s is on Fifth Avenue at 57th
St., right across the street from the Plaza Hotel, so the photographs
are of a location that should be familiar to the vast majority of
going to give away any spoilers, but when you learn what the Bergdorf
salespeople make, your jaw will drop.