His tailor shop is below street level, in an underground strip mall, which gives Mr. Arabpour’s cramped business the appearance of only being open “late-night.” Burly men file in with their entourage, and he, elfin in comparison, reaches up to greet them with three kisses.
This is the sum of the action in Final Fitting, a portrait of the 80-year-old Arabpour, tailor to the stars of Iranian politics and religion for 58 years. Director Reza Haeri bounces back and forth from Mr. Arabpour’s reception area to his back room, where he cuts fabric and muses on everything from garment construction to his famous clientele to why one should not wear trousers to prayer (plumber’s crack!).
Mr. Arabpour has outfitted everyone from the late Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of the 1979 Iranian revolution, to popular former president Mohammad Khatami and current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. You get the impression he treated them all as he does in the film: jumping up to wrap his arms around a man’s waist, faceplanting into his belly, reading the tape, and shaking his head, muttering, “God preserve me.”
Mr. Arabpour lives the city of Qom, a holy city of the Shiite Muslims and home to one of the largest religious schools in Iran. Although a strict dress code still exists, changes to Iran’s cultural climate over the past decade can be measured by Mr. Arabpour’s creations. Theology students now wear trousers, (and some wear jeans) and there are several accoutrements, such as turbans and abbas (robes) that have adjusted to fit these modern times. Labadehs (long, sheer robes worn over one’s ensemble), for instance, have gone from having one or two pockets to nine – even ayatollahs need a place for their Blackberry.
In a mere 30 minutes, however, Final Fitting manages goes beyond the garments to reveal a delicate portrait of an old man – a man who is traditional, modest, and accepts change with the indifferent resignation of someone who’s seen it all. It leaves you feeling you’ve trespassed upon his quiet life – and for that reason alone, Final Fitting is essential viewing.