Pin It
Favorite

Shining Through Negatives 

Nobody knows fashion like Bill Cunningham. But nobody knows Bill Cunningham.

click to enlarge art16821.jpg

Remember when documentaries presented both sides without bias? When they were humble? When they didn’t have to be narrated by Matt Damon to seem interesting? This observational documentary is that joyful slice of humility that is so often lacking in the genre.

Bill Cunningham New York is the story of an 80-year-old fashion photographer for the New York Times. His occupation is to wander around the streets of New York City on his little Schwinn (his 29th, as the other 28 were stolen) and photograph everybody in their normal clothes, whether they be bike messengers or up-and-coming socialites. He’s been doing his job for decades, chronicling fashion trends for so long that the evolution of our culture itself is acutely documented through his photos.

Yet nobody knows who he is. He has rubbed elbows with icons and movie stars for ages and frequents upscale New York City galas in the evening. Yet he eats in trashy diners, picking at his sandwiches with delight. He lives in an apartment that resembles a closet filled with filing cabinets and newspapers (picture Mel Gibson’s place in Conspiracy Theory) and asks, “Who the hell wants a kitchen and a bathroom? Just more rooms to clean.” He has photographed the most beautiful clothes in the world and yet he patches his own jacket with duct tape and wears a trash bag around rainy Paris.

When the film begins, it seems like Bill is just an adorably humble man who never stops smiling and never has a mean thing to say. But the tone changes when you learn that, through the course of production, Bill is in the middle of an eviction battle over

his apartment. At that point, the movie successfully presents this sweet old man as a bridge between the lower class and upper class of America. While you watch Cunningham get chummy with Brooke Astor, you remember that he rode his bike to the party and needs to look for a place to live when he wakes up in the morning.

The film is pieced together as modestly as Bill lives his life. It’s shot primarily through hand-held cameras, and even the interviews take place in the filthy homes and offices of the people speaking. Nothing is manufactured or staged. The only manipulative editing in the show is the juxtaposition of lifestyles — rich people in limousines, followed by Bill running into taxis on his bicycle.

The film and its subject are refreshingly genuine, and sure to inspire audiences who are fortunate enough to watch it.

Tags:

  • Pin It

Latest in Film

  • Closing the Book
  • Closing the Book

    Peter Jackson bids farewell to his hobbits with one last, great movie
    • Dec 17, 2014
  • The One Who Knocks
  • The One Who Knocks

    Why an Australian indie called The Babadook became one of 2014's creepiest films
    • Dec 17, 2014
  • Let My People Go Big
  • Let My People Go Big

    Exodus: Gods and Kings fails when it tries to humanize its spectacle
    • Dec 10, 2014
  • More »

Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

Today | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu

All of today's events | Staff Picks

or

More by Ethan Wolcott

  • Film Mitzvah
  • Film Mitzvah

    We command you to attend the Jewish Cultural Film Festival.
    • Mar 14, 2012
  • Arts Happenings in December
  • Arts Happenings in December

    The Nutcracker, Young Frankenstein, the Small Works Invitational and more.
    • Sep 21, 2011
  • Arts Happenings in October
  • Arts Happenings in October

    Horse Thieves, Blue Scholars, Cokie Roberts, Terrain, Need | Want, and more.
    • Sep 21, 2011
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Fresh Spin

    A local record shop is reincarnated under a new owner, giving this generation a taste of vinyl
    • Nov 25, 2014
  • Hairy Matters

    L.A. glam-metal pioneers Mötley Crüe are calling it quits, and that's not necessarily a good thing.
    • Nov 19, 2014
  • More »

Top Tags in
Music & Film

Film


Review


© 2014 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation