Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Advanced Style - The Documentary

Last night, the long-awaited Advanced Style documentary, based on the blog by Ari Seth Cohen, had its premiere at the Toronto Hot Docs Festival.  The film has been 3 years in the making, and was funded by a Kickstarter campaign.  So far, it's the only film in the festival that is sold out, which is great news for Director and Cinematographer Lina Plioplyte, Producer Ari Seth Cohen, and the six stylish senior stars of the film.   I have followed Cohen's blog for the last 4 years and have met some of the women in the film, and they are as delightful and inspiring in real life as they are on the screen.  Four of the women in the film made the trip from New York with Plioplyte and Cohen for the premiere of the film last night at the Hart House Theatre in Toronto.

The film's director, Lina Plioplyte, and producer Ari Seth Cohen shone in silver

Debra Rapoport (l) and Tziporah Salamon (r), who appear in the film

Another star of the film, Lynn Dell Cohen, aka "The Countess of Glamour" and owner of Off Broadway Boutique, was radiant in black and fuschia.  You can see my friend Donna standing up in the background over her right shoulder.

Many people came up to talk to Ari and Lina, and members of the cast, before the screening.  Lots of photos were taken, and it was great to see people of all ages who were obviously thrilled to meet the creators and stars of the film.  When I was walking to the venue I came up alongside two young women who were headed in the same direction and when I asked if they were going to see the Advanced Style Documentary, they said "Yes, and we're so excited".  

 The young woman in the black lace dress talking to Lina and Ari was just adorable - her face lit up when she saw them and she had the biggest grin on her face the whole time she was talking to them.

Clockwise from top left:  Joyce Carpati; Lynn Dell Cohen and Tziporah Salamon; Salamon with member of the audience (wearing a very cool vest); Debra Rapoport, wearing one of her trademark hats she makes from paper towels.

There was an entertaining short film screened before the Advanced Style documentary called "You Won't Regret That Tattoo" directed by Angie Bird.  Six men and women, all over 50, reminisce about tattoos they got when they were younger, or in a few cases, ones they got after they turned 50.  One lovely woman who had always wanted a tattoo ended up getting one on film.  You can watch the trailer for the film below.

 Producer and Director introduce their film

The Advanced Style documentary focuses on the day to day lives of six vibrant women living in New York, who at the time of filming, ranged in age from 62 to 93.  Tziporah Salamon, Debra Rapoport, Jacquie Tajah Murdock, Ilona Royce Smithkin, Joyce Carpati, and Lynn Dell Cohen are stylish, creative, and inspiring women who have been featured in Cohen's popular blog.  They are very different in their style choices and their backgrounds, but share a love of dressing up, and a determination to live their lives by their rules.  While it is tempting to see these particular women as leading charmed lives, the reality of what it means to be a woman over 60 living in a society where youth is worshipped is not ignored in the film.  Serious health issues, loss of family and friends, and the frustration of earning a living at an age when many people are retired are some of the challenges experienced by the cast.  Jacquie Tajah Murdock, a former dancer at the Apollo Theatre, has lost most of her sight due to glaucoma, Lynn Dell Cohen spent time in the hospital during the shooting of the film, and Ilona Royce Smithkin is shown caring for a friend with Alzheimer's disease, who passed away after the film was completed.  The film also includes a tribute to Zelda Kaplan, a funky and fabulous 95 year old socialite who passed away last year after collapsing in the front row of a fashion show at New York Fashion week.  Talk about making a grand exit.

Zelda Kaplan, who was quoted as saying her bedtime was "anytime between midnight and 7 am". 

It's easy to see the film as a promotional vehicle for Cohen and his blog, but Plioplyte keeps Cohen's presence to a minimum on screen, choosing to focus on the women themselves.  Their humour, wisdom, honesty, and eclectic personal style make them the stars.  I was touched and inspired by Ilona Royce Smithkin's revelation that she feels she's only come into her own during the last 15 years and relishes her current role as an artist and a teacher, and  I felt a kinship with the four single women in the film who muse about the possible existence of a "Mr. Right" at this point in their lives.

The only glitch in an otherwise perfect evening were the technical difficulties that caused the sound and picture being out of sync for over half the film.  When an attempt was finally made to fix the problem there was a considerable delay, so cast members from "You Won't Regret That Tattoo" were invited on stage for a Q & A, and then Cohen grabbed a microphone and chatted to some of his the films' stars.  The issue was finally resolved, but only after a couple of additional starts and stops.   The audience remained patient, and Cohen and Plioplyte kept their sense of humour, but I cringed inwardly, imagining just how frustrating and upsetting it would be for all involved to have something like that happen on the premiere of your first film.  Hopefully all future showings go smoothly.

There was a  Q & A on stage after the screening of the film.  Left to Right - Tziporah Salamon, Debra Rapoport, Joyce Carpati, Lynn Dell Cohen, Lina Piloplyte, Ari Cohen, and the host for the evening whose name I didn't get.

Audience members had questions about the women's nutrition and fitness routines (most of them are vegetarian, and all of them are very active) and how their personal style evolved.  One person asked them what their childhood selves had wanted to be when they grew up.

The elegant Joyce Carpati had wanted to be an opera singer from a young age

Debra Rapoport had always wanted to be an artist, and she creates amazing wearable art from recyclable materials.  She got very emotional when speaking about the experience of making the film.

Salamon's Prada shoes got their own shoutout from an audience member
*for those of you who wondered what I wore -the combination of pouring rain, below seasonal temperatures, and a total of 5 hours spent on a bus meant that I had to dress for comfort instead of glamour, so no photos of me with the Advanced Style ladies.

The film travels to London, England for its UK premiere on May 6th at the Curzon Mayfair Theatre.   You can find information about other upcoming events related to the film on the Advanced Style Blog.


  1. Thanks for this full report! It will probably be a while before this film gets to my small city!

  2. I hope this screens in Victoria! I would love to see it (and "You Won't Regret That Tattoo"). Thank you for sharing this, Shelley!

  3. Clearly, a must-see movie, and the fact that it was sold out bodes well for its future success. These women are magnificent. And so are many of the other Advanced Style women I seen blogging.
    I'm so glad you were able to attend and share your experience here. How on earth did you decide what to wear yourself? What DID you wear?

    1. Alas, I did not get any photos of me with the gang. The reality of spending 5 hours total on a bus, pouring rain and below seasonal temperatures meant I went for comfort more than style. Hot pink cozy jacket, polka dot leggings and skirt.

  4. Ha, I was just thinking the same as Melanie - I wonder what Shelley wore?!
    The documentary sounds amazing. Inevitable, really, given the subject matter and the wonderful personalities involved. The premiere looks great, how exciting to be there, mixing with the stars! xxx

  5. what a grand bunch of woman. It's good to see them and that the lot of us "older" ladies isn't something fleecy with an elastic waist

  6. How cool you went to this! I can't wait to see it. I also contributed to it on kick starter. Bummer about the tech difficulties but it looks like they made the best of it. Love Ari's crazy ass pants. So what did you wear?!?!?!? We know you looked amazing!
    Lots of love

  7. So glad you braved the inclement weather to get to see this! It sounds great and I'm particularly liking the support docu, too. Good to know they are mostly veggies, hope for me yet! xxx

  8. it was such an inspiring evening! So glad to be at the premiere (except for the technical issues). If I had known I would be in a pic, I would have surely struck a pose;)

  9. Sounds like an interesting evening Shelly. Thanks for reporting back. I feel badly for them with their technical difficulties. After all that hard work on the very last step, the part that should be easy there is a problem. I'm sure they had a few drinks after that.

    That is a long way on a bus late at night!

    I'm off to France...will reconnect with you in a few weeks. Maybe we will get together yet this summer : )


  10. So exciting that you were able to attend the premier of the Advanced Style Documentary and document the event for the rest of us! Your photos are perfection and your writing is always a pleasure to savor. Thanks for braving the inclement weather and a long bus ride to compose this beautiful post!

  11. Thank you for a great review of the film and the event. You gave us a well-rounded snapshot of the documentary and the wonderfully stylish cast, amazing director and talented producer. Hopefully, it will play in NYC soon.
    Jean & Valerie

  12. ohhhh, glad you've enjoyed the premier, it looks absolutely amazing, and love you've shared it with us!!. Actually I'll have to watch it in dvd, I think it's not going to be in theatres here!. Anyway, I will be waiting any available opportunity to watch it!!, who knows?!
    besos & gracias