Film: Bill Cunningham New York


Cast includes: Bill Cunningham, Anna Wintour, Michael Kors, Editta Sherman, Annette De la Renta, Anna Piaggi, Thelma Golden
Director: Richard Press
Genre: Documentary (2010)

In brief: That white-haired octogenarian on the bicycle wearing a blue jacket and relentlessly snapping pictures… that’s Bill Cunningham. He’s likely to show up almost anywhere in New York City. These days, his photos of street fashion are a regular feature in the New York Times. If it’s Thursday, you’ll find him frantically editing photos and trying to decide the theme of the next photo essay. “This week it’s going to be legs and feet.” According to Bill, “The best fashion show is definitely on the street.” That doesn’t mean he skips the designer shows and socialite galas. He loves to show how designer fashion moves to the street and vice versa. Back at the office of the Times, we find Bill mending rips in his jacket with masking tape. No one could accuse Bill of being “extravagant or wasteful.”

When the filmmakers ask, “What do you know about Bill’s personal life?” the answer is usually “nothing.” We in the audience actually get to know Bill a lot better than most. We follow Bill to his home… one of the last 6 apartments in Carnegie Hall before the eviction. His apartment looks more like an office than an apartment… no kitchen, no bathroom (it’s down the hall). His furniture is nothing but file cabinets to store every project he’s ever done. His clothes hang on hangers from file drawer handles. His bed is a cot wedged between file cabinets. And that’s the way Cunningham likes it.

In addition to insights on Bill Cunningham’s discriminating eye, we get some wonderful insights on life. The only thing Bill takes seriously is his work… which isn’t work to Bill… it’s his life, his love, his air. Bill has never cared about money… “Money’s cheap. Liberty is expensive.” You might think with an attitude like that, he wouldn’t care about fashion either. But in Bill’s words, “Fashion is the armor to survive everyday life.” So what is Bill’s fashion statement? It’s his Veste jacket… the kind worn by French street sweepers. He’s an original.


popcorn rating

4 popped kernels

A joyful look at a contagiously up beat artist… you won’t want it to end

Popcorn Profile

Rated: G
Primary Audience: Grown-ups
Gender Appeal: Any audience
Distribution: Art house
Mood:  Jubilant
Tempo: In no hurry  
Visual Style: Unvarnished realism
Character Development: Engaging
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Informative


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