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Chronicles a man who is obsessively interested in only one thing,the pictures he takes that document the way people dress. The 80-year-old New York Times photographer has two columns in the paper's Style section, yet nobody knows who he is.Written by
I wasn't sure how I felt going into Bill Cunningham New York. I thought to myself this is a man who goes around New York photographing men and women wearing their attire, and doing a lot of cutting and pasting into making it a weekly section in The New York Times. But I also thought that this couldn't be the end of the story. Something about Bill Cunningham had to be interesting, creative, and unique to get his own film.
Thankfully, I thought correctly, and now am fully intrigued by the life of eighty-year old Bill Cunningham. His job is not only a different one, but one he tirelessly continues to do as he rides around on his twenty-ninth Schwinn bicycle up and down lower Manhattan to photograph boots, hats, scarfs, clothes, pants, etc. This is a man who through thick and thin keeps on smiling. You'd never know he was having a bad day because he'd most likely smile during that too.
Bill lives in a tiny, rent-controlled apartment in Carnegie Hall where there is no kitchen, but dozens of file cabinets filled with negatives and positives of photos he's taken over the past several years. He sleeps on a mattress that lies on top of several more file cabinets. All I can say is if you think you're a dedicated lawyer, do you sleep on your briefcase? The film is 90% about Bill and his photography, and the other 10% tries to nudge him in the side trying to dig deeper in his personal life when he won't let you. We keep asking questions like "Is Bill straight?," "Does he date?," and etc, but we get little to no answers. Maybe because this is a documentary about his work not his personal life. But the neglection of something a documentary on a specific person needs, a little background, just brings this gem down a tad bit.
Bill explains how when he was a young child, at Church on Sundays, instead of listening to the preacher he'd be too busy staring at other people's hats. This shows that his passion for fashion, a relatively eclectic thing, started early and never held up.
Many of us work at a job that keeps us satisfied and puts food on the table. Bill works a job that keeps him over-joyed and puts food on his floor next to his file-cabinets. Rarely do a lot of people truly love what they are doing, but Bill is one of them. He's a person who if you watch be happy for a while, it begins to make you smile. He's the kind of person that just fills you with glee.
Bill Cunningham New York is short and sweet, but still leaves many questions unanswered that I'm sure will remain unanswered forever. Bill is a closed book, but open if you ask him anything about fashion. He's a mirror-image of what you can become if you take life on the slow track and live a very basic, yet eventful life. It's almost inspiring with its storytelling of just a simple, yet so complex man of interest.
Starring: Bill Cunningham. Directed by: Richard Press.
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