Film review: ‘Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s’ profiles an institution

SCATTER MY ASHES AT BERGDORF'S

‘Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s’
Director: Matthew Miele
Genre: Documentary
Rating: PG-13
2 (out of 5) Globes

A glossy, 90-minute infomercial for Bergdorf Goodman — New York City’s most luxurious retailer — this self-serving documentary will best be appreciated by fashionistas who strive and aspire to live the fantasy inspired by the store. Unfolding as a series of various chapters, “Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s” takes viewers behind the scenes of the exclusive store without revealing anything particularly special. The parts here are greater than the whole.

Viewers meet Linda Fargo, the store’s fashion director, who recounts once being mistaken for Anna Wintour. She counsels designers and shows and tells how exclusive lines are bought and developed. In contrast, artists and decorators are seen busily developing the holiday display “Carnival of the Animals.” But even for those wowed by the store’s celebrated windows, this running vignette grows tiresome and repetitive.

Celebrities including Susan Lucci and Candice Bergen reveal their passion for the store, and name designers from Michael Kors to Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen emphasize the value of being represented by Bergdorf’s. Various sales associates recount famous celebrity encounters, too: from Liz Taylor’s visit, or when a very slow Christmas came to a very good end after John and Yoko bought 70 furs.

And speaking of either cache or cash, viewers might gasp to learn how much a Bergdorf’s sales associate earns. The film’s best sequence showcases Betty, a personal shopper whose wry and honest approach to selling has become justifiably legendary. Viewers will crave her advice (and fashion sense), and admire her sharp tongue.

The store itself is less well showcased. Its history and the 16-room apartment perched on top of the building are discussed, albeit rather dryly. The famous shoe salon — aka every girl’s dream — is shown, but what resonates is that they have trouble keeping a pair of $6,000 shoes in stock. This anecdote proves the film’s point: Bergdorf customers do indeed have a deep emotional connection to the store’s clothes. But it is hard to develop a deep, emotional connection to this film, which makes viewers feel like window-shoppers once removed.

Moreover, no one in “Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s” has a bad thing to say about the store, which suggests that Bergdorf’s is a magical place for its wealthy, discerning clientele — and the bag lady who once pulled out thousands of dollars to purchase a fur coat, much to the shock and delight of the associate trying to get her away from the high-priced merchandise.



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