Thursday, May 23, 2013

Movie Review: 'Scatter My Ashes At Bergdorf's'


The name itself is synonymous with high style.

It conjures up visions of America's best-dressed women and instantly brings to mind the world's leading fashion designers.

But Herman Bergdorf hasn't been part of the legendary Bergdorf Goodman store since the early 1900's when he was bought out by Andrew Goodman who moved the store to its present hallowed location at Fifth Avenue and 58th St. in Manhattan.

There are no Bergdorf-Goodman branches. There is only one Bergdorf's and it is a shrine where fashionistas worship their secular gods (and goods) just as God himself is worshiped devoutly just a few blocks south at St. Patrick's Cathedral.

But whereas St. Patrick's doors are open to all, you're unlikely to catch more than a glimpse of the inside of Bergdorf's unless you're gilt-edged or know someone who is. Sure, you can walk right in. But you'd better be ready to part with Big Bucks, for this is a super-luxury retailer.

Well, now Matthew Miele has come along and given us Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's, a visually-stunning new documentary taking us inside the most mythic of all American emporiums - and the scene of many an ultimate fashion fantasy. In Scatter, we get a rarified chance to peek behind the backroom doors and into the reality of the fascinating inner workings of Bergdorf Goodman. The film includes interviews with an array of fashion designers, style icons, and celebrities.

So, we not only see the dazzling world of Bergdorf's but we also hear from Tom Ford, Karl Lagerfeld, Isaac Mizrahi, Vera Wang, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Tory Burch, Giorgio Armani, Oscar de la Renta, Manolo Blahnik, Bobbi Brown and many others.

The whole thing is like a big commercial for Bergdorf's and the world of fashion, glamor and luxury.

And sadly, it's rather choppy. There's not an organizing thread that takes us through the full 93 minutes. There's nothing that brings it all together and keeps it together. We just sort of bounce around from designer to designer and celebrity to celebrity as Bergdorf's moves from decade to decade in an endless effort to remain precious, profitable and pertinent.

One storyline that does have promise is the annual development of Bergdorf's holiday windows and we do get to see the windows in all their glitzy glory. But that's not enough (and not related enough to the whole) to hold this all together.

There's no real litany of celebrities who've shopped at Bergdorf's through the ages, no genuine sense of what it takes to open the doors and what's needed to keep it profitable, not many really juicy stories and precious little of the rich history of the store. For example, we find out that the Goodmans once lived in a beautiful penthouse at the top of the store. But we're never told if the penthouse is still there or, if it isn't, exactly what happened to it. There are a lot of untied ends here.

What we get are so many fashion designers talking about their need to get into Bergdorf's and stay there. And there are lots and lots of self-impressed people heaping lots and lots of praise on one another. Though, thank goodness some do shoot a few well-deserved barbs in the direction of the icy Anna Wintour.

Still, it's not until the credits roll at the end of the picture that we discover that Bergdorf's really isn't Bergdorf's after all. Instead, it's part of Neiman Marcus which is itself owned by two private equity firms, Texas Pacific Group and Warburg Pincus. So, it's all part of a big conglomerate whose investors also have pieces of Aramark Corporation and Harrah's Entertainment (casinos).

BTW: The term "scatter my ashes at Bergdorf's" comes from an old New Yorker cartoon, just another link between Bergdorf's and the popular culture that is barely noted in the film.

No comments: