USA – 2010 – 84 MIN – COLOUR - FEATURE - IN ENGLISH
A FILM BY RICHARD PRESS
“We all get dressed for Bill,” says Anna Wintour about Bill Cunningham, the 80-year-old New York Times photographer and unlikely man-about-town. Cunningham has two weekly columns in the Style section of The New York Times: “On The Street,” in which he identifies fashion trends as he spots them emerging on the street; and “Evening Hours,” his ongoing coverage of the social whirl of charities that benefit the cultural life of the city. The result is far from simple picture taking — it is cultural anthropology.
Still, no one knows a thing about Bill Cunningham, the man himself. Intensely private and averse to any kind of attention, it took filmmaker Richard Press and producer Philip Gefter years to convince Bill to be filmed. Using only small consumer cameras and no crew, BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK has the intimacy and immediacy of a home movie.
BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK chronicles a man who is obsessively interested in only one thing — the pictures he takes that document the way people dress. Bill has lived in the same small studio above Carnegie Hall for fifty years, never eats in restaurants and gets around on a worn-out bicycle — his sole means of transportation. The contradiction of his monk-like existence and the extravagance of his photographic subject matter is one aspect of his private life revealed in the movie.
The film’s cast of characters ranges from the downtown New York eccentrics Bill has photographed over the years to the uptown fixtures of New York culture (Tom Wolfe, Anna Wintour, etc) and pillars of “New York Society” who have never before appeared in a movie but who agreed because of their regard for Bill (David Rockefeller, Brooke Astor, Annette De La Renta, among others). The range of people reveals something of the delirious and delicious romp through New York that composes Bill’s world.
A sartorial Weegee, habitually dressed in a blue work jacket, Bill Cunningham has tried to live his life as an unencumbered man. He wants only his independence to be able to point his camera when beauty crosses his path. With this singular goal, he has managed to create a poignant and ongoing chronicle of the intersection of fashion and society in New York over fifty years — in effect, a portrait of New York City itself.
"A wistful portrait of an enduring eccentric"
- THE GLOBE AND MAIL
"For the fashion elite or the average joe, Cunningham’s practice is a reminder of fashion’s capacity for joy, an emotion that’s also the engine of this tender documentary."
- EYE WEEKLY
"Bill Cunningham New York is fashionably superb"
- THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT
"BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK is a portrait of an extraordinary man who possesses such arcane knowledge as the difference between right and wrong. He's like a contemporary Jimmy Stewart in a typical Jimmy Stewart movie — an everyman, a regular fellow, a guy just like us, only better. Much better."
- TORONTO SUN
"The home-movie esthetic of BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK mimics the subject's philosophy of maintaining a respectful distance. He's a man in lonely pursuit of fashion, what he calls the armour that lets us survive everyday life. "He who seeks beauty will find it," he says."
- VANCOUVER PROVINCE
"Great subject, superb movie"
- PLANET S
"In a world of incestuous celebrity journalism, Cunningham is the last purist, a professional voyeur who refuses to cross the line. He covers charity banquets night after night and won’t accept even a glass of water on the job. “Thank you, child,” he says, turning down an offer of food from a gala hostess. “I eat with my eyes.”
"There is one sport at which the fashion pack excels: sprinting to the newsstand and rifling the New York Times on Sundays to get to Bill Cunningham’s On the Street photo gallery."
- THE TORONTO STAR
"Probably the most impressive feat any documentary film can pull off is making someone give a damn about its subject. And especially if the viewer is terminally disinterested in that subject. And extra-especially if that subject is fashion. But leave it to the gang at the New York Times, who can spin a yarn about a guy selling single cigarettes into an incredibly compelling read, to stitch together an exceptionally entertaining film about Times fashion photographer Bill Cunningham."
"...as he often has done, Bill Cunningham taught me another way of seeing. Again."
"...an affectionate, reverential and rare glimpse into the daily life and workings of the legendary lensman."
- THE NATIONAL POST
"The New York Times fashion photographer Bill Cunningham gets more excited about taking a picture of a soggy woman swathed in a garbage bag on a rain-slicked New York City street than any society dame in a couture frock."
What Toronto’s fashion community is saying about New York treasure Bill Cunningham
- TORONTO LIFE
"...a must see for anyone even remotely interested in fashion, photography or design. You will instantly fall in love with this sensitive, thoughtful man who has dedicated his life to one of beauty."
- NOLAN BRYANT
"And yet the mystery of why Bill Cunningham lives the way he does is also satisfying, much like not knowing how a magician does his tricks. It is a portrait of a fascinating man who spent his life avoiding the camera."
- WE VANCOUVER
"Long before The Sartorialist, Tommy Ton and the myriad of other professional and not-so-professional street style photographers – there was Bill."
- IT'S ALL STYLE TO ME
"...a rich portrait emerges of an obsessive and a loner, shaped years ago by an issue of family honor and carrying on today free to do what he wants. It’s a memorable character study. At the same time, the film captures perfectly the atmosphere of modern New York."
- VANCOUVER OBSERVER
"Before street style photos became an ubiquitous phenomenon, a genre whose posers and snappers draw crowds and snag book deals, Bill Cunningham had already been photographing the news on the streets, runways and ballroom floors of New York for decades."
"Director Richard Press (in his debut as a feature film director) says it took him eight years to convince Bill to make the film, and another two to shoot and edit it. The result is a loving, funny and often poignant portrait of a dedicated artist."
- TORONTO FILM SCENE
"He's funny and honest, but doesn't like talking about himself much. Even the fashion elite who've known him forever, like Anna Wintour, Annette de la Renta and "oldest living teenager" Iris Apfel, don't know what he does after work; they suspect there is nothing but work."
- VITAMIN DAILY
"BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK a fascinating portrait of a fashion icon"
In a certain world — high couture, low couture, the Manhattan social scene — he is 'the most important man on Earth'"
- VANCOUVER SUN