Film Review: Bill Cunningham New York

| 8 November , 2011 | Reply

Directed By: Richard Press
Appearances by: Anna Wintour, Michael Kors, Tom Wolfe
Sassi\’s Star Rating: 5/5

This excellent documentary by American filmmaker Richard Press follows renowned fashion photographer Bill Cunningham; the innately remarkable man behind an extraordinary body of work. In Cunningham, R. Press has found a magnificent subject: known to many, but well known by hardly anyone. This often hilarious, sometimes saddening, and always interesting film features interviews with Cunningham\’s friends and contemporaries including big names such as US Vogue Editor Anna Wintour, Designer Michael Kors, and writer/journalist Tom Wolf.

Bill Cunningham is a delicious juxtaposition. The informal cultural anthropologist is a New York City institution, pumping through the busy streets on his Schwinn to capture photographs of fashion and faces for his two weekly columns for the fashion and social pages of the New York Times. Hugely influential, but astoundingly humble, Bill flits amongst societies elite clad in his infamous blue street sweepers jacket and an outdated SLR. When it rains he accessorises with a worn out $2 poncho he would rather repair with electrical tape than replace. Cunningham is the intriguingly frugal ruler in a kingdom of excess.

But these curiosities are just the tip of Bill Cunningham New York\’s appeal. R. Press carefully weaves a portrait of a man utterly devoted to his art; without a partner, a family, or many close friends. He gains access to some intensely private locations such as Cunningham\’s tiny Carnegie Hall studio and we\’re pulled into the memories of the artists who changed the landscape of 60\’s. Yet the more we see of Cunningham\’s life, the harder the man is to get to know.

R. Press peels away Cunningham\’s layers but the celebrated photographer is never completely stripped bare. Appropriately respectful to the privacy of such an elusive character on issues of religion, family, and sexuality this documentary gently alludes but never puts the pieces of the puzzle together. Cunningham\’s silences seem to give us a more accurate portrayal than the facts would; without losing his mysterious charm.

Bill Cunningham New York is more than a fashion or photography documentary; it\’s a very human study of some incredibly interesting folk. But more importantly it\’s a heart warming story about a man with simple wants, complex underpinnings, and an intensely modest heart. Highly recommended viewing.

Bill Cunningham New York is in cinemas now.



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Category: Film & TV

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