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Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s (2013)

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Score: 3/10

Genre: Documentary Running Time: 1 hr. 33 min.

Release Date: May 31st, 2013 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Matthew Miele Actors: William Fichtner, Mary-Kate Olsen, Ashley Olsen, Candice Bergen, Joan Rivers, Karl Lagerfeld, Michael Kors

I

n 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 place.

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 Olsen, 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.

– Mike Massie

 



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