Bill Cunningham New York

by Elizaveta Dergacheva

“Find your love, and you won’t need anything more”- this is how a documentary about Bill Cunningham, a unique artist who gave the world the street-style genre, could be briefly described.

It’s not that hard to comprehend that the documentary was given such a name for a reason. You can’t separate Bill Cuningham and New York City, you can’t imagine them apart from each other. In the movie you won’t see typical biopic scenes: interviews taken in a cozy atmosphere at home, noisy family conversations at the plentiful table – Bill Cunningham is a man married to a city. Just like when you are head over heels in love with someone, you do not want to eat or sleep, but simply be near the object of your passion, neither does Mr Cunningham need food or rest, but to walk hand in hand with New York. Indeed, what we see throughout the film is Bill constantly cycling around the city, rarely taking a break for lunch, relentlessly photographing his spouse’s children – fashionable, ubiquitous New Yorkers (whom he calls “kids”). And at the end of the day, we watch him coming back to his tiny apartment at Carnegie Hall, furnished from top to bottom with file cabinets containing every negative of every shot he has ever taken in his 80-years life. It’s true, “a cottage is a castle for those in love”, except the fact that his place is probably 10 times smaller than a cottage.

Both the director and the cinematographer (along with Tony Cenicola), Richard Press, managed to convey the atmosphere of this vibrant metropolis life, as vibrant as the outfits of its residents in Bill’s snapshots. And just like little kids in a large family try to grab the attention of their parents, New Yorkers strive to stand out and be in the spotlight. However, if New York does single someone out more than the others, Bill Cunningham absolutely doesn’t care who is in front of him: whether it’s a hurrying passer-by on the street or a worldwide celebrity at a pretentious event. He is not interested in who you are – your clothes speak more than your status. Maybe that is why his entourage says that it is on the pages of his column in The New York Times that global trends are born. He searches here and there: at a pedestrian crossing, on a street corner, on the veranda of a cafe, in a queue at an ATM – and shoots everything that catches his eye.

This documentary is not exactly about the dynamic life and oeuvre of Bill Cunningham, but mainly about a human for whom his occupation is not just work, but the love of his life.

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