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Interview: Director Lina Plioplyte and the cast talk about Advanced Style

If we have ever had the experience of watching a movie or TV show, and then having the participants standing in front of us, acting almost exactly as we would imagine, then we could relate to my experience interviewing the women from the Hot Docs premiere Advanced Style, a freewheeling, and yet powerful documentary about the relationship between women, fashion, and growing older, (“I’m better with age” is a repeated refrain). Two of the women that I was set to interview wandered downstairs to the lobby of the hotel in search of coffee, dressed in their “costumes”, or outfits featured in the documentary. Asking if I knew where the café was located, I was able to only mumble a few words before off they went, on their merry way, no publicist in tow. I would have directed them to the nearby Second Cup, but they seemed to have found it on their own, (or someone found it for them), declaring it to be the best coffee that they have ever had, (I notice that the women of Advanced Style often speak in superlatives). During that moment when I was first approached by the women, their verve, of their absence of self-consciousness was uncanny, as I felt like I had somehow stepped into the documentary, or, perhaps they had stepped out of it. They acted how I imagined that they would, and continued to do so throughout the interview time. To experience this movie, (and really, it is a must-see), is to see the women of Advanced Style as they are.

Perhaps this feat is a testament to first-time director thirty-year-old Lina Plioplyte, who acts almost like a woman of Advanced Style in training, a Pre-Advanced Style woman. The Vilnius-born Brooklyn-settled Plioplyte said, “For Ari and (me)..we are the young generation, and looking up at these women, When I am thirty more years old. I want to be this way. How did you guys get there? That’s the whole premise of the film”.

Joyce, polite and regal, recounts that: “Ari approached me on the street, and he said ‘I’d like to take your picture. I was a little taken aback, because I didn’t know what he wanted, really…I really was happy for the opportunity. I’d never heard of anyone putting out a book like that, and meeting all these wonderful women”.

Lynn Dell, a revelation in deep orange, continues the thread : “I was approached by (Ari Seth Cohen) for a blog, and since I don’t work a computer, I had no idea what a blog was…until so many people stopped me and ‘you’re on a blog’, then came the book, and many of my clients, (I own a boutique shop), the well-dressed ones were in the book”.

Tziporah, the youngest, (and perhaps most gregarious) of the women, offers that: “I started reading the blog, and there was a photo of Debra, and she was wearing this wonderful coat, which I loved, and I wanted to know more about the coat, and there was this e-mail about how to get in touch with Debra.”

The above-mentioned Debra, whose hat has me transfixed, relays that: “I met Ari (when) he was working at the new museum. I walked in and he was working at the bookstore. And he said ‘Can I take your picture, I have a blog for women over sixty, and of course, I said ‘how do you know I’m over sixty’?” “I said ‘come on over, I’ll dress up, I’ll undress, and I’ll feed you lunch”.

Ari Seth Cohen takes it from there: “Debra was the first woman who invited me into her house to interview her. And from there, I started going deeper with Advanced Style, and making it more about lifestyle with the women’s philosophies”. Ari Seth Cohen really does have a way about him that is difficult to describe, and he comes off far more magnetically in person, than he does in Advanced Style. There’s something about Ari, a certain style of behaviour, always placing the focus anywhere but on himself—is not quite captured on film.

He goes on to say that: “These women are advanced in their style; they’re cooler than the rest of us”. Salamon testifies to the accuracy of the film: “They filmed us in our lives. Each of us has a different sentiment, and it really is who we are in our lives.” Cohen ends by stating: “It’s knowing who you are…(and) dressing accordingly…I think that we all feel that way”.