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Bill Cunningham New York (Review)

Bill Cunningham New York (Review)

For takers of pictures, wearers of clothes.
Nov 21, 2011
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Bill Cunningham New York
Genre: Documentary, Biography Runtime: 84 minutes Country: USA, France


Director:  Richard Press Cast: Anna Wintour, Annette De la Renta, Bill Cunningham, Carmen Dell'Orefice, Mrs. Vincent Astor, Tom Wolfe
Bill Cunningham New York (Review), reviewed by Rebecca Mery on 2011-11-21T23:51:52+00:00 rating 4.0 out of5

In Bill Cunningham New York, first-time director Richard Press has captured and crafted a fascinating portrait of a fascinating man, one who works and lives in the world of today, yet in many ways seems to hark back to a by-gone era.

Darting around New York like on a Schwinn bicycle and sounding every bit like Katherine Hepburn’s long lost cousin, Cunningham is the camera-wielding journalist behind two influential fashion columns in the New York Times, ‘On the Street’ and ‘Evening Hours’. To merely describe him as a “fashion photographer”, however, seems woefully inadequate. A sift through the mountains of filing cabinets that fill his cramped Carnegie Hall apartment would be to take a chronological journey through decades of New York fashion history. Clocking years well into his eighties, Cunningham could appropriately be dubbed the grandpappy of street fashion photography, beginning his career almost half a century before the network age we live in now. In a time where every man, woman and pre-pubescent child seems to have a fashion blog, Cunningham stands apart as the most genuine of articles, one of a seemingly rare breed of those who do it (whatever artistic endeavour “it” may be) for the love of it, completely devoid of any monetary motives. It’s this iron-strong moral compass and refusal to be owned by “The Man” that makes him such a fascinating figure to watch and attempt to make sense of.

The interviewees featured in Bill Cunningham New York – other than Cunningham himself, whom I’d frankly be happy to watch on his own for an hour-and-a-half — are easily worth the price of admission in their own right. American Vogue’s Anna Wintour, author Tom Wolfe, socialite Annette De La Renta, mature-age model Carmen Del’Orefice, and Cunningham’s kooky 90+ year old neighbour Editta Sherman are just a few notables called upon to sing Mr Cunningham’s many praises. Unwittingly though, they also paint a portrait of a man who’s beloved by the fashion world and Manhattan high society but whose private life remains a tightly shrouded mystery. Most of his contemporaries and even close friends admit that they haven’t a clue what Bill does in his spare time, whether he’s ever had an intimate relationship or if he has any family to speak of. Cunningham, a religious man, loses the twinkle in his eye when quizzed about his private life, in a humanising moment of poignancy and sadness that underpins an otherwise joyous, feel-good film. If you’ve ever enjoyed taking a photo, been in love with your art, or have revelled in wearing something pretty, then you’d be wise to see Bill Cunningham New York.

Follow the author Rebecca Mery on Twitter.

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