For Reel

Bill Cunningham New York (2010)
June 13, 2011, 6:19 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Richard Press

A long-running New York Times column entitled “On the Street” has not only offered a guerrilla perspective of New York City fashion, but has arguably had a hand in influencing many of the fashion trends of the past few decades. The man behind these photo columns, Bill Cunningham, lives modestly, to say the least. Occupying a tiny studio apartment above Carnegie Hall (once a popular housing situation for struggling artists, now nearly desolate), Cunningham rides his bicycle through the city and photographs any clothing that he considers to be interesting. What makes the documentary accessible to fashion philistines is that Cunningham’s tastes are hardly obscure – he likes anything that is out of the ordinary. In one scene in the film, he ignores Catherine Deneuve due to the familiarity of her attire. Vogue editor Anna Wintour, who recently starred in an entertaining documentary of her own entitled The September Issue, features heavily in the film and confesses to fearing the disapproval of Cunningham’s camera. As a subject, Cunningham is charming and, for that reason alone, the film has its pleasures, however in the tail end of the film, director Richard Press begins asking probing questions about his religious beliefs and sex life. His vague, uncomfortable answers make one realize that the relative lightness of what they’ve just witnessed is not the documentary that they would have liked to see.


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