Ilona Royce Smithkin in New York City in 2011. Photo: Amy Sussman
“Here I am!” says 94-year-old artist and teacher Ilona Royce Smithkin dramatically, fluttering long, orange, and very fake, eyelashes. She is relaying the day she met photographer Ari Seth Cohen, and the audience at the Montclair Film Festival in New Jersey is lapping up her every word.
The Cut reports her story thus: “I was minding my own business, walking down Park Avenue in New York, and this young man comes over and says, ‘May I have your photo?’ I said, ‘Sure, but what do you need it for?’ He said, ‘Well, I’m looking for women over 60 who still have life in them and dress colourful.'"
Smithkin is just one of the charming New York seniors to feature on Cohen’s popular street-style blog, Advanced Style, which he has now developed into a documentary film, with the help of director Lina Plioplyte.
The film, which debuted in the US on Saturday, follows the lives of seven spirited women, aged 63 to 95, as they charge about New York in their social, fashion-fuelled lives.
“These women really challenge our notion of getting older,” Cohen says in the film. “They really embrace their age, feel good about themselves; and every time they leave the house, they look and feel their best.”
Fans of the blog will get their fix of Tziporah Salamon, who rides a bike around the city without a helmet, such is her love of hats, and 80-year-old Joyce Carpati who favours pearls and quilted Chanel bags.
Three-years in the making, the documentary also captures challenges and heartbreaks, as the women grapple with the passing of friends and family, and their own mortality. At 95, Zelda Kaplan’s life comes to an end, fittingly, while sitting front row during Fashion Week.
“For her, everything was a celebration,” says Salamon. “What a fabulous way to die — doing exactly what she loved to do, which is be out in public, be where it’s happening — certainly it was happening at the tents during Fashion Week — looking great, being part of the world, being part of life.”
We await news of an Australian release date in a pose similar to the one Smithkin holds above.
Source: The Cut