The Brag

[Sydney Film Festival 2010] Film Review: Bill Cunningham New York

In Arts, Film Reviews, Sydney Film Festival 2010 on May 31, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Bill Cunningham New York (USA)

Bill Cunningham spots an exotic pair of stems...


Bill Cunningham is 80 years old, and can be found most days poised on street corners, waiting for what he calls a “bird of paradise” – an elegant woman, or anyone wearing something fabulous. He has been photographing interesting fashion since the 1960s, when he was given a camera by a professional photographer, who told him to use it like he used his pen – to take notes.

This doco takes us inside a New York personality, someone who has become a fixture in social and fashion scenes – despite being intensely private, and living a steadfastly Spartan lifestyle. This is the interesting paradox at the heart of Bill: while he describes fashion as “the armour that allows us to get through the everyday”, and has a love affair with the eccentric outfits of others, he himself wears a blue cotton workers’ jacket at all times. When it rains, he wears a disposable rain poncho, which he has patched-up with electrical tape, to extend its lifespan.

Bill is the man behind two of the New York Times’ most popular columns – ‘On The Street’ and ‘Evenings’ – one documenting the philanthropic/social/political movers-n-shakers at black-tie functions, and the other following trends that he notices happening on the streets. That, for him, is where he discovers the truth: what people are wearing, and who they are. He is so dedicated to the task, that one colleague compares him to a war photographer – he’ll go out in all weather (preferring it when it’s a blizzard), and will do anything for the shot.

Over the years, he has documented the fashions of Anna Wintour and Iris Apfel. Wintour will stop on the street to be photographed by him (but no-one else) – and says “we all get dressed for Bill”. [DJ]

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