HMMMM. HARD TO KNOW what we expected, this mixed crowd of age, beauty and style of one sort or another who sat expectantly at the AMC Loews Georgetown last Saturday to see a screening of “Advanced Style” (see previous post). And, my guess is many of us are still puzzled. Ari Seth Cohen tells us at the beginning of the film, a documentary about fashionable women “between 50 and death,” that he was inspired by his two very stylish grandmothers to photograph stylish older women of New York City. The personalities whom he chooses to focus his attention on become much more than mannequins to him. His interest is in more than their particular styles; through them one senses he is extending his fantasy of his grandmothers in ways that they may never have imagined for themselves. That is as deep as I am prepared to go in trying to find the reason for this film.
Finding creative, expressive individuals of all ages has not been a problem I’ve experienced on the streets of New York. Admittedly, finding women willing to become the subjects of a documentary looking into their personal lives may be harder–but these are women hungry for recognition of their perceived achievements, who have been waiting to be “found” in one way or another–and some, sadly, are still waiting.
I found the film slightly uncomfortable rather than celebratory or even reinforcing. It objectifies these women just as surely as a Playboy centerfold (are those still around?) but with less honesty about exactly what is going on. To find it so unusual that these older women, or women of any age, for that matter, who enjoy fashion and style and are interested in and meticulous about their daily clothing choices, seems a bit condescending to them and to the rest of us. One can appreciate the pent-up and/or expressed creativity, energy and all that New York brass in these few women who are still full of life and living it as best they can, as we hope we all will as time moves on for us. In that sense, I applaud their moxie–but as for their style, well, hmmm.