Advanced Style

Hot Docs is over.  10 days, 26 films, too much popcorn and a frightening number of meals consumed hovering over a garbage can.

The spectrum of topics was impressive.  Some films were uplifting, some depressing, some enlightening and some  a little pointless.  I took in four my final day, the first of which was a charming feature called “Advanced Style” about a blogger named Ari Seth Cohen from New York who concentrates on the women of the city who still command a stylish presence in their twilight years.

Here’s a link to the original blog.  He has a book as well, and now this documentary.





All photographs by Ari Seth Cohen























The women in the film are quirky and charming, but it was in the line up that I was truly entertained.  I was reading a book on the rise of Blackwater, the private security contractors who have been gaining enormous power in the past few decades (honestly, combined with my documentary addiction, my choice of reading materials and the Munk Debate on state security I attended on Friday night it is a miracle that I EVER sleep).  Right behind me there were a trio of older women, I’d say in their early 70s, all impeccably turned out.  The first one that caught my eye was a diminutive Scot wearing a gorgeous tangerine coat, yellow rimmed spectacles and a long scarf.  Another was sporting two glorious steel coloured braids and funky glasses.  They looked beautiful and they were talking about travel.  It wasn’t long before the book was a beard for my eavesdropping.  These women had been everywhere, and were talking about where their odysseys would take them next.  One was waxing on about going back to Bali.  The braided women was talking about how she had won airfare to Bangkok and had flow, alone, to Thailand with nary a hotel reservation and a determination to see the culture from the ground up.  She was “adopted” by a group of 20something year old Aussies who elected her their granny took her everywhere with them.  The third just returned home from a European jaunt and was talking about how she rents apartments in Aruba every Christmas and invites all her friends to flop on her floor.

These women were a delight to listen to and also delightfully … familiar.  My own parents are adventurous and intrepid travellers – they borrowed my back pack to go to Indonesia some years ago – so I come about my own love of foreign lands honestly.  The women in the queue sounded just like my friends.  The women in the film looked like my friends.  (Not me so much – I have always been more of an observer that a displayer when it comes to clothing, but my pals have much more panache).  These women were not silly or ridiculous or senile.  By contrast they were beautiful, confident and strong.  I know these people.  I want to BE these people.

Interesting to note there was very little mention of men.  I have always been genuinely amused by the Hollywood parameters of the female story arc.  If a couple dates for more than a few months they are asked when wedding bells will ring. If a matrimony ensues it is automatically assumed that they should start having children.  If a couple split up they should immediately start partnering up again.  If they don’t, they are accused of not “moving on”.  As someone who has remained resolutely unmarried and childless by choice rather than omission or neglect it seems rather ridiculous.  Understand, I LIKE men as a group and I have loved a few of them very deeply, but as I age my own sense of urgency to couple up has dwindled significantly.  I get fulfillment from my own adventures and the people I am lucky enough to have in my life and I do not believe I am unique in this.  If these women are any indication there is nothing to fear in the future, only experiences to embrace.  Maybe I have not “moved on”.  Maybe I have moved up instead.


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