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In the world of fashion, there's "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and there's
Bergdorf Goodman. It's an iconic building in New York overlooking Fifth
Avenue, and an elite destination for high-fashion designers and
discerning clientele alike. There's no hiding the fact that the company
caters specifically to the rich but it creates a social status to
aspire to and a financial abundance everyone wants to achieve. Shopping
regularly at such an exclusive, superior quality, pricey place is a
superlative situation for pursuers of The American Dream. "Scatter My
Ashes at Bergdorf's" gets its title from a celebrated cartoon by
Victoria Roberts, published in The New Yorker, depicting just such a
couple of elderly ladies, musing over their only desired final resting
The documentary features an incredibly brief history of designer Michael Kors (made more recognizable from his stint as judge on "Project Runway") and an even quicker account of Herman Bergdorf and Edwin Goodman, who worked together to build up the company. The primary focus is dozens of comments by accomplished artists and celebrities reminiscing on what the retailer means to them. Construction of window displays led by production managers, a look into the living situation of the Goodman's above their store in a luxurious 16-room apartment, Elizabeth Taylor and John Lennon's custom orders, the processes of sardonic personal shopper Betty Halbreich, European designers' annotations of the iconic company, and several other related interests are randomly touched upon. These are elucidated by notes and opinions of popular designers and Hollywood clients such as Christian Louboutin, Oscar de la Renta, Joan Rivers, Diane von Furstenberg, Marc Jacobs, Vera Wang, Rachel Zoe, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olson, Candice Bergen, Karl Lagerfeld, and countless others.
The narrator (William Fichtner) cuts in around 15 minutes after the film starts, says a few words in a partially recognizable intonation, then mysteriously disappears again for long spaces of time; it's peculiar to hear the omniscient voice in the first place, and ever odder each time he chimes in. From a technical standpoint, the assembling of data and interviews is amateurish at best, as if the material isn't worth the attention of a more extravagant setup or arrangement. It's loosely divided into chapters, with subjects and interviews changing spontaneously and reverting back to previous matters clumsily, devoid of standard transitions. The editing features plenty of movement, flashing lights, funky music, and an anticlimactic finale (based on the dry unveiling of the five large display windows of Bergdorf's, with intermittent production designing proving far more engaging), prompting the notion that this documentary is desperately trying to appeal to a younger crowd through visuals instead of an amusing concept.
"Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's" details the fact that there are a lot of politics, questionable exclusivity expectations, and a handful of powerful fashion directors, that control the fate of the majority of impassioned up-and-comers. Several of the featured artists are related to already successful, household-name creators; privileged upbringings are certainly less inspiring than those who start from the bottom. Other stories highlight the equally unrewarding tales of effortless success begetting further riches, while a few more interesting seconds mention the measurements of the economy and the correlation to upper class expenditures at such an aristocratic locale - but no single aspect is examined with any meaningful depth.
- The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)
I must disagree with the naysayers. I enjoyed this documentary. And I
think that those who knock it are doing so from a starting point of
viewing it with the expectation that it is a fashion documentary. It is
not that. This is a documentary of Bergdorf Goodman. A retailer.
I think that anyone who has an appreciation of history and art will enjoy this film. Bergdorf Goodman is a success story, known the world wide. It's a family owned department store that broke new ground in many ways -- in business understanding and scope, in architecture, marketing, mentoring, sales, window art, and building a phenomenally loyal clientele. In essence, this is a documentary of an American family owned business success. Part of that success has been to discover designer talent, teach and mentor them, create a Designer and a Line. You'll notice that every designer interviewed is both radiant and reverent when discussing Bergdorf Goodman. No one could have done what BG did for their career, except BG. And they know that.
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the coverage of the window displays. The behind the scenes work and artistry that go into that is a revelation. And a celebration.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When choosing the subject for a Documentary Feature the film maker must
decide if the subject will go the distance. Here's a documentary short
padded into feature length. At 91 minutes it feels long and redundant.
Far too many black outs followed by segment titles soon make you hope
for "the end" title. The parade of repeated talking heads becomes
tiresome. Joan Rivers does add a spark of life.
The people followed through their "typical day" is sometimes interesting but is anyone doing anything worthy of a documentary film? Perhaps the creation of the windows show some passion, and the personal shopper is good at her work, but for the most part it all seems like, what we have here is subject matter for reality TV on an obscure cable network.
At one point bad editing or a directing decision implies the tragedy of the Kennedy assassination seems to pale to the tragedy of Halston selling to JC Penny.
The good news is a documentary got theatrical distribution. The not so good news is there is no reason to see this scattered too long work in a theater.
Summertime - when all sorts of small films get to be seen - and so it is with Scatter My Ashes At Bergdorfs, a delightful film that could be seen as an infomercial for one of Manhattan's many department stores. It was fun to listen to the interviews of celebrities and near celebrities. The historical background was sparse, and must have left all the juicy bits out. A sly comparison between Anna Wintour and Dawn Mello made me feel as if I was now in on some clever insider joke or amusement. Most enchanting was the part of the film dealing with the annual creation of the fantastic Christmas windows. Oh to be a craftsman/woman employed to make fantasy pieces of art !! Many folks might look upon this film subject as too lightweight, and not worthy of their attention - and they would be wrong. We all need fantasy, and it can be found at Bergdorf's on 5th Avenue in Manhattan.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I found this documentary, written and directed by Matthew Miele, became
more and more pretentious and self-congratulatory as it progressed.
It's a glimpse into the world of people who live in an alternate
reality from 99.9% of the rest of us. It reminded me somewhat of the
documentary "The Queen of Versailles" where the main characters had
seemingly no clue, or didn't want to know how the rest of the world
The subject here is the iconic department store and building, taking up the entire block at 57th Street and 5th Avenue, in Manhattan, of Bergdorf Goodman. It's purported to be, in the film, the classiest retail clothier around, showcasing the world's best designers for the world's wealthiest clients.
Without trying to get too moralistic, when you look at the desperation of the people of the Phillipines, due to Typhoon Haiyan, and knowing the struggles of so many here in the States financially, it's hard to really enjoy a film that highlights the snooty world of the obscenely rich and famous and their clothing purchases.
Also, I certainly got the impression that there were strict controls on what was being filmed and what the final product would be. It became, in my opinion, more and more of an infomercial for Bergdorf Goodman.
On the positive side, I thought it was interesting to see the history of the company itself and how their famous building was designed and built. However, you don't learn till the very end of the film that the owner Andrew Goodman, who is highly praised in the film, sold out in 1972, and the company is now a subsidiary of Neiman Marcus.
Also, I thought the preparations of the Holiday windows at Bergdorf's was quite fascinating and the final results were amazing. So maybe I'll see you all gawking at the Christmas displays in the Bergdorf Goodman windows, because we're probably not going to go in and buy a $6,000 pair of shoes!
SCATTER MY ASHES AT BERGDORF'S looks at the interior workings of Manhattan's famous store, interviews some of their most celebrated employees and talks to a series of fashion designers and customers who have enjoyed an association with the store over the years. Divided into a series of sections - for example, looking at how designers get accepted, the business of selling, or the planning that goes into the Christmas window-dressing campaign - the documentary shows how the store maintains its aura of exclusivity, not just because of the outrageous prices it charges, but because of the way it treats its customers. Star salesperson Betty Halbreich tells her clients the truth about themselves, while persuading them to spend fantastic sums on clothing. In the shoe salon, staff take a conscious pride in selling what they perceive as top-of-the-range models. Running throughout the film is a narrative concentrating on Bergdorf's iconic window-displays for 2012 - entitled "The Carnival of the Animals," they are quite simply mind- boggling in their detail and richness, creating a never-never land of their own that draws customers as well as tourists and window-shoppers. The interviews with the fashion designers are perhaps the film's least interesting aspect; it is much more instructive to look at the way in which hard-edged buyer Linda Fargo both nurtures and directs potential designers; she knows what she wants, and is prepared to get it at any cost. While Miele's film celebrates the store's durability - it even managed to weather the 2008 economic crisis - it perhaps lacks a sense of historical background: we could have found out more about how and why it attained its prestige in the first place. It remains highly entertaining nonetheless.
I should say at the outset that not only I am no fashionista, but that the fashion industry as a whole gives me the serious irrits. That should actually be a good starting point for this film as I came in with very low expectations, and I guess it's fair to say they were about met. This is, essentially, a bog standard, talking heads documentary, lacking any sort of dramatic arc or thread to hold the collection of anecdotes together. The only real point of interest for me was the creation of the seasonal window displays, which were breathtakingly and beautifully over the top, and without these this film would have rated a 3... maybe that's a bit harsh. As with any good documentary, I was hoping this film would make me care about something I didn't, but unfortunately what was not the case here.
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