Monday, November 10, 2014

Some thoughts on Advanced Style, the movie

Advanced Style, the blog, has been on the radar for some time now, and it grew wings and became a book and now a documentary film. The creator, Ari Seth Cohen, is a young man who was influenced by his grandmother to respect and appreciate stylish and creative older people. He lives and photographs his subjects in New York City, which is of course the ongoing fashion runway of the United States.

The women whom we get to know in the movie are refreshingly different. I feared that there would be just too much in common—perhaps eccentricity?—but I found myself intrigued in different ways with each of these women. I felt more connection with some than others. I felt respect for all of them. 

Yes, these women are all over sixty, but one is just 62 and rides her bike everywhere, another is 94 and states that she can promise she can be there for a television filming from the waist up, but from the waist down, “don’t ask, don’t tell.” One is legally blind (and still applies eyeliner deftly!). I thought that I might see nothing but leopard prints and huge bracelets, but there was everything from handmade and very avant-garde style to simple elegance.

To me—almost old enough to be photographed by Ari Cohen—age is both very unimportant and very important. On the one hand, I look at these women as confident and interesting people, and they clearly would be at any age. Their style + age doesn’t equal better than just their style to me. On the other hand, look what these women bring to their understanding of life, creativity and the world by the sheer amount of time they have observed and evolved, each in her own way.

Age is also very important to me as I try to find a way to make a transition from what most of the world considers beautiful, to what the caring and thoughtful know to be beautiful. I collect images and words on the subject and felt a great boost in my own confidence and sense of self after seeing this movie. I felt encouraged.

My two favorite moments? When a woman from Alaska visits the vintage clothing shop of one of the women and she tells the 80-year old shopkeeper that she felt that Ari’s blog and portrayal of these stylish older people had given her permission to be creative herself. Anyone who needs a little push to begin to express herself at any age should see this movie because it may start her on a path that makes her happy.

I did notice the vulnerable moment when one of the women, in her late 60s, and with a young looking 74-year old boyfriend are talking and he says that when they first went out together he thought she looked like a clown. She walks away and explains to us that she thought for several days what a man might think of her costuming. But it only took a few days to just be herself again, and they have been together since.

I asked a couple of men who attended the movie what they thought of the women. One “was there for the popcorn, but enjoyed the ladies.” The other was delighted, knowing and respecting older women in his own family. He could relate very comfortably to Ari Cohen, who seems to truly love his subjects.

It’s amazing how provocative age can be. We want it (a happy, healthy older age) but we are ambivalent about how the world sees us. These women all seem to be seeking, and finding, their styles with joy; and if not as vigorous as they once were, they at least have tremendous fullness in their lives. Bravi to all these remarkable 60+ year olds, and bravo to Ari for bringing them to us.

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