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Bill Cunningham New York

A movie directed by Richard Press

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Touching, ingenious portrait of a man just happy to be there.

  • Feb 13, 2012
Rating:
+5
**** out of ****

Bill Cunningham. That is the name of the legendary New York Times photographer; a man fascinated with fashion and trends in the cloths that the good people of the city have been wearing. Filmed sometime in 2010, the film follows Bill as he's pushing 80; and he hasn't lost trace of the enthusiasm and human kindness that defined him in the fields of both personality and business. I don't know everything about him as a man, but the deal here seems to be that people liked Bill and he liked them in return. This is a first-rate portrayal of a man who appears as if he's just happy to be alive.

If you didn't know who Bill Cunningham was before you either saw this review or saw the movie, no worries; we're essentially on the same page. However, I chose to flip through a few of the man's still photographs; each one more fascinating than the last. The photos are, ultimately, what convinced me to watch the documentary on the photographer that shot them as soon as I possibly could. It's the kind of movie where if you miss it, you'll never quite forgive yourself if you do decide to pick it up some time down the road.

The documentarian, Richard Press, takes us through Bill's life; piece by piece, photograph by photograph. We see his house, which is a small, condensed, but personally sufficient Carnegie Hall Studio. We see his office, which is just as easily an actual office - where he gives his works of art a final touch-up of digital magic before publication - as it is in the street, where Bill likes to ride his bike. His method of transportation is indeed one of the many things that made Bill Cunningham a name to cherish, remember, and honor.

As with most documentaries, there really isn't much of a straight-forward plot. These are documentations in their purest form possible; honest, gripping, intoxicating, and best of all, surprisingly insightful. Whether you know the name Bill Cunningham or not, there's something here for everyone to enjoy; "Bill Cunningham New York" (the name of the film) is simply fascinating, spotless, and just like the man that it is so proudly about, just happy to prosper.

Man, you'd have to be a real grouch not to enjoy the journey at least somewhat. Bill provides interesting, intelligent, passionate commentary on his art throughout the film; and he does so whilst being completely and utterly light as a feather. Anyone with a beating heart is bound to respond at least somewhat to this material; be it emotionally (I was touched by a scene in which Bill visited a run-way fashion show, sat on the sidelines instead of the photographers section, and had himself a merry old time while Coldplay's "Viva La Vida" illuminated the scene and brought it to the level of absolute memorability) or otherwise.

"Bill Cunningham New York" is one of the best films to get a 2011 release; and quite possibly the best documentary from that year. It has all the qualities of a classic work of movie magic in the making; what it lacks in spectacle, it makes up for in character. The documentary makes it perfectly clear that Bill Cunningham was completely human. He had riches, but he did not use them; he had women at his feet, forever admiring him, but he did not take advantage of the fact; and he had career hardships, but he didn't let them - or anything else- get the best of him. Bill Cunningham is a happy man, and I expect he remained so throughout his entire life. Wouldn't be much of a surprise to me, personally. I know I'd be pretty happy too, if I were granted the chance to do what I loved to do for an impressive paycheck, all while riding my bicycle and donning my poncho in the lovely, lovely rain.

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More Bill Cunningham New York reviews
review by . August 08, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         Bill Cunningham New York tells me so little about its subject, and yet I feel as if I know who Bill Cunningham is. He is, first and foremost, a fashion photographer – or, as he would prefer, a cultural anthropologist – for The New York Times. Now in his early eighties, he still rides up and down the streets of New York on his bicycle, always with his Nikon camera around his neck, always ready to take pictures of people and the clothes …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #3
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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