In an era where anti-ageing propaganda infiltrates every screen, page and airwave, Advanced Style is a rapturous testament to growing old (but not up).
In an era where anti-ageing propaganda infiltrates every screen, page and airwave, Advanced Style is a rapturous testament to growing old (but not up). Inspired by the eponymous blog from street photographer Ari Seth Cohen, this delicious documentary follows seven exceptional New York City broads ranging in age from 62 to 95. Each woman is uniquely vibrant and vital, as exemplified by her eclectic couture that demands you stop, acknowledge and appreciate her presence in a world fixated with fleeting youth. Director Lina Plioplyte makes a timely statement about the place where age meets beauty in her debut feature. Enjoying a close, authentic relationship with the women on screen, Plioplyte’s respect and admiration create the intimate environment needed for Joyce, Ilona, Debra, Jacquie, Tziporah, Zelda and Lynn to share their most personal philosophies. On sidewalks, in thrift stores and bedrooms, the women discuss everything pertinent to their diminishing years, from love and loss to health and hats. Early on an important distinction is drawn between fickle ‘fashion’ and lasting ‘style’. Disregarding the superficial former, these women have the latter in spades. Like walking works of art they strut the streets of NYC with photographer and fan-boy Ari in tow. Original ensembles experiment with colour, shape and feel, conveying the innate creativity that buzzes away in each of the women. With their wardrobe serving as a stop sign, they command their space and consequently your attention, for every millisecond of screen time. Clothing here is not physically or culturally restrictive, but an essential outlet to rail against the unrealistic, age-obsessed values that marginalise women who exhibit inescapable signs of natural maturation. Mortality is palpable throughout the film – loitering in the lobby at Barney’s, waiting at Fashion Week’s wings – just as it’s inevitable in life. Saved by heartfelt humour and striking visuals, Advanced Style works toward reclaiming space on streets and screens for those who defy Western beauty ideals. Ultimately the success of this film should be pinned to the spirit of the brilliant women who drive the story on both sides of the camera.