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Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's

2013 | 90 min | PG-13 | 1.85:1

Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's


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Theatrical release date

 10 May, 2013
 06 December, 2013

Country of origin

 United States



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Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, May 23, 2013

In 1995, the Isaac Mizrahi documentary “Unzipped” opened to acclaim and box office interest. It was a strange picture at the time, revealing the backstage life of a fashion designer, detailing the work, the struggles, and the success of such an intense vocation, teeming with judgment and humiliation. Cut to today, and fashion stories are everywhere, with television shows and documentaries happily pulling back the curtain on industry secrets and cattiness while selling an image of artistry and unattainable luxury to those who relish such dreamtime opportunities. Finding a fringe topic rarely open for discussion, director Matthew Miele goes beyond style and into the store, establishing a cathedral of commerce and anecdotes for inspection in “Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s.”

Bergdorf Goodman is the crown jewel of New York City shopping, dating all the way back to 1899 when Herman Bergdorf established the company, soon joining forces with Edwin Goodman, with their flagship store solidifying the brand name as one of luxury, friendliness, and style. While Miele doesn’t have the journalistic drive to drill into the heart of the corporate beast, he actually manages to acquire access to the famed building, which has been photographed for numerous television specials and motion pictures. However, the documentary isn’t interested in a tour, only what makes the company tick, interviewing staff and admirers on their experiences working with such an esteemed organization, while a host of fashion designers, journalists, and celebrities fill out the conversation, sharing their appreciation for Bergdorf Goodman, with a few of these lives directly changed through their association with the company.

Miele has constructed a colorful invitation with “Scatter My Ashes,” delivering a highly produced picture that’s slickly edited, boasting nuclear colors and a cinematic drive to tap into the elusive zeitgeist of fashion and how the store aids in the shaping of trends and artistry. Filmed during the 2011 holiday season, the documentary is all over the map in terms of topics, though what might be considered a narrative for this free-flowing creation is found with short-tempered designer David Hoey, a man in charge of crafting deluxe window displays, tasked with masterminding five wildlife-themed visions (titled “Carnival of the Animals”) that highlight insane attention to decorative detail. Beyond Hoey’s concentration and management skills, Miele roams freely around the history of the brand name and the employees working to preserve its legacy, offering time with fashion director Linda Fargo and personal shopper Betty Halbriech, a blunt conductor of style who ends up stealing the movie with her curt manner.

There’s a line-up of famous faces to help celebrate the impact of Bergdorf Goodman, with Joan Rivers, Karl Lagerfeld, Rachel Zoe, Vera Wang, Bobbi Brown, Christian Louboutin, and Susan Lucci sharing their fond memories of the store, reverent to its reputation. Others, including Jason Wu and Michael Kors, recall how Bergdorf Goodman jumpstarted their careers, giving the designers prominent placement in front of the rich and famous.

Speaking of serious coin, “Scatter My Ashes” does inspect the lofty prices attached to the merchandise, while tales of extraordinary sales to the rich and famous pepper the production. Just how this veiled celebration of wealth, power, and consumerism will sit with the average moviegoer remains to be seen, but whatever discomfort arises from hearing about John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s purchase of 80 fur coats is glossed over by the director, who’s in no mood to challenge the daily business of the store, instead celebrating its exclusivity as a fairy tale for those who can afford the financial demands.

Spotting eccentricities and theatricality in the gathered personalities is highly amusing (why do fashion journalists always look like the antithesis of their seductive subject?), keeping “Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s” compelling, despite Miele’s growing uncertainty over the film’s direction, often losing momentum to banal tangents highlighting floor staff commissions and the minutiae of the buying process. Also missing from the documentary is a tour of the building. While we hear plenty about its history and construction, the interior of Bergdorf Goodman remains an enigma outside of a few glory shots spotlighting merchandise and displays. It’s a shame that more time isn’t spent inside wandering around the establishment Miele is celebrating, as the pixie dust of elitism and fashionista fawning wears off in a hurry.

Narrator: William Fichtner
Director: Matthew Miele

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