MIFF 2014: Advanced Style

"I love you!", septuagenarian Lynn Dell declares as she floats past a cluster of bystanders admiring her outfit.

But what she really means is, I love that you're paying attention to me. For people like Dell, whose next-level dress sense caught the eye of style blogger Ari Seth Cohen, attention is all that matters. Hate me or love me, just as long as you pay attention to me.

Ostensibly a celebration of advanced age and high style, Advanced Style is — unintentionally — a vile portrait of the upper class of urban Americans for whom the endless accumulation of designer clothing is not a sad reflection of an increasingly commercialised world, but their identity. These aren't just people who care about their appearance, these are people for whom their appearance is literally their only daily concern. The sheer ignorance is breathtaking.

And yet, far from being criticised as ignorant, or shallow, they are sycophantically celebrated by people like Advanced Style curator and photographer Ari Seth Cohen, who showers them with attention and, more enticingly, an audience. In a me-first American culture for whom "15 minutes of fame" isn't an aspiration but an entitlement, an audience is everything they've ever wanted and they seize it with both hands, wringing it dry of every last drop of adoration.

For his part, Cohen also gets caught up in a whirlwind of self-mythologising and congratulation, with the film spending a large chunk of its swift 72-minute running time observing the women profess their undying admiration for his blog and what it has done for their lives. With Cohen intimitely involved in the making of the film, it's difficult to see this as anything other than an outrageously selfish pat on the back.

A sad portrait of the self-involved by the self-satisfied, Advanced Style is a truly grotesque reflection of the worst of modern American culture.

But the clothes are beautiful.

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