CHICAGO – The issue of gender identity, especially for those who are born with a vagueness as to what to call themselves between/beyond boy and girl, has come front and center in the U.S., both with the legalization of gay marriage and the callous repudiation of identity by trying to pass laws dismissing it (the North Carolina “bathroom” laws). The performance companies of The Living Canvas and Nothing Without a Company is currently staging “[Trans]formation,” which presents gender identity art by six performers, who perform most of the play in the nude.
Fashionistas Will Swoon for ‘Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s’
CHICAGO – Watch out folks, the one percenters are fighting back. After the rabble of the 99 forced their way into Occupy Wall Street territory, the true rulers of America are pushing back in the only way they know how…by shopping. “Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s” is a gloriously vain documentary about a legendary shopping experience in Manhattan. What, The Gap wasn’t available?
To be fair, this is a harmless celebration of the store Bergdorf Goodman, a place where the highest level of fashion designers sell their wares to drape the nouveau and old money riche. One of the participants offer that yes, this is expensively priced finery, but it gives the dreamers “something to aspire to.” And essentially, they are right. Money changes everything, and no one knows what they would do with it, once it is obtained. Even the freaking counter culture maven Yoko Ono is portrayed purchasing 400,000 bucks worth of furs from Bergdorf’s on a long ago Christmas Eve, while hubby John Lennon nods approvingly. Apparently there is something we need more than love.
What began as a tailor shop run by Herman Bergdorf in 1899, expanded to a destination store in the first decade of the 20th century, with the additional of partner Edwin Goodman. The newly renamed Bergdorf Goodman took up residence on 32nd Street, and became the talk of town. Goodman eventually bought out Bergdorf, and moved the store uptown in 1928 to it’s present boutique address of 5th Avenue and 56th Street.
Photo credit: Entertainment One
The documentary is a celebration of this legendary catering-to-the-rich retail outlet, and celebrities and fashion icons like Joan Rivers, Nichole Ritchie, Candice Bergen, Susan Lucci, Tom Ford, Vera Wang, Marc Jacobs, Isaac Mizrahi and Michael Kors add their perspectives. These interviews are framed by the process of creating the anticipated Christmas windows of Bergdorf Goodman, the examination of which is painstakingly (emphasis on pain) detailed.
This is a very easy film to make fun of, on the surface, but what everyone has to remember is that there are real fans of high fashion, and by the looks of television (“Project Runway,” “Fashion Stars,” “Pimp my Nerd Style”) its popularity is growing, not going, away. So why not profile the “Mecca” of all this, Bergduff Godswain, or whatever the store it called (see? easy).
The celebrity and fashion guru interviews run the gamut from sycophantic to lick-body-parts celebration, which is why we find out from Joan Rivers when she is going on a cruise, that Bergdorf’s personal shopper will put out fashions in her size, ESPECIALLY geared toward a cruise. This solves the enduring mystery of how someone can earn a quick 6000 bucks in commission. The fashion “names” – the Vera Wang, Marc Jacobs, Tom Fords, Michael Kors and the like – temporarily take a break from being worshiped, to worshiping their god of retail (and their fortune). It’s like cats and dogs living together, in high end couture.
The Christmas store window angle is classic over-coverage, to pad a film barely clocking in at 90 minutes. In exacting and overwrought detail, each phase and window are drooled over. Bergdorf’s, again in their defense, are one of the very few stores still practicing the commercial art of window dressing, and the results embrace the spectrum from kitsch to high art, which is to be expected. Scoff if you like, but surely Christmas in New York is not complete without the trip to the windows. And don’t call Christmas Shirley.
Photo credit: Entertainment One
One of the cooler pieces of archival footage is from an old Barbra Streisand TV special from the 1960s. These expressionistic broadcast pieces were modern in their day, and one includes Babs cavorting around Bergdorf’s singing a variation of “Second Hand Rose.” This is the centerpiece of the film, culminating in an odd montage which chants Barbra’s name, over and over. Whether this is supposed to be subliminal or affecting, it doesn’t matter because we all love Streisand! Streisand, I say!
I kid. This gets three and a half statues, because I know those who are into it will love it, and those who are dragged to it will think it’s a cinematic frontal lobotomy. In a world like that, darling, why not spend 20 G’s on a dress?