VOD film review: Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s
James R | On 09, Dec 2013
Director: Matthew Miele
Cast: Tom Ford, Vera Wang, Susan Lucci
Watch online: Curzon Home Cinema / TalkTalk TV / Apple TV (iTunes) / Film 4oD / Virgin Movies on Demand
“People who take fashion seriously are idiots,” says Joan Rivers at the start of Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s. It’s the kind of wry, knowing comment you don’t expect to hear in a documentary about one of America’s most iconic clothes shops. Sadly, it’s all too rare.
Matthew Miele’s film purports to take a look behind the scenes at the store, chronicling everything from the people at the desks upstairs to the celebrities in the aisles. And what celebrities they have. “You’re only as good as your clientele,” gushes one designer. There’s a lot of gushing. “The reality is Bergdorf’s has the most discerning clientele in the world.”
We hear all about them in amusing anecdotes, such as the time Yoko Ono spontaneously bought $400,000 worth of fur coats on Christmas Eve. Those accounts of former glories are presented with just the right amount of business enterprise and commoner awe – it’s just a shame their subjects can’t make an appearance. The nearest we get to Hollywood royalty are the Olsen twins.
Instead, we’re treated to fashion royalty – everyone from Tom Ford to Vera Wang. It’s a veritable orgy of designers and employees, each one somehow tied up in the store’s success. Window decorators and personal shoppers give it a more personal feel – “What would you do if you weren’t doing this?” our interviewer asks the wickedly funny salesperson Betty. “Drinking,” she deadpans back – but a lot of it comes across as more advert than investigation. Glimpses of the power wielded by the chain within the industry are interesting (if you don’t get your clothes in the store, you might as well give up, one quips) but are never explored or questioned. Why would you, when there’s gushing to do?
“There’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s, then there’s Bergdorf’s. You can’t help but fantasise about it…” one woman sighs wistfully. Miele does a nice job with the visuals, animated store dummies and shooting window decorations with a vibrant style that almost makes this dreamland come to life. A final musical segment to I Got Plenty of Nothin’ and Radiohead’s Fake Plastic Trees is unexpectedly beautiful, almost hinting at the hollow commerce on display.
At one point, actress Susan Lucci recounts how she once overheard French women on the seventh floor saying when they died, they wanted their ashes sprinkled at Bergdorf’s. For fashion lovers, Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s may well be a fun treat, but you can’t shake the feeling that the film wants you to scatter your wallet there too.