"We all get dressed for Bill," says Vogue editor Anna Wintour. The Bill in question is 80+ New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham. For decades, this Schwinn-riding cultural anthropologist has been obsessively and inventively chronicling fashion trends he spots emerging from Manhattan sidewalks and high society charity soirees for his beloved Style section columns On The Street and Evening Hours.
Cunningham's enormous body of work is more reliable than any catwalk as an expression of time, place and individual flair. The range of people he snaps uptown fixtures like Wintour, Brooke Astor, Tom Wolfe and Annette de la Renta (who appear in the film out of their love for Bill), downtown eccentrics and everyone in between reveals a delirious and delicious romp through New York. But rarely has anyone embodied contradictions as happily and harmoniously as Bill, who lived a monk-like existence in the same Carnegie Hall studio at for fifty years, never eats in restaurants and gets around solely on bike number 29 (28 having been stolen).
Bill Cunningham New York is a delicate, funny and often poignant portrait of a dedicated artist whose only wealth is his own humanity and unassuming grace.
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES
High-definition master, enhanced for widescreen viewing
20 minutes of additional scenes
Original U.S. theatrical trailer
5.1 surround and stereo soundtracks
English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired (SDH)
PLUS: A 12-page collectible booklet with a director s statement and more Richard Press's flattering, but never fawning portrait of New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham distinguishes itself from most other art and fashion documentaries. First of all, Cunningham doesn't produce work that ends up on gallery walls. Instead, his candid snapshots of the city's most fashionable citizens have graced the paper's Style section for decades. That accessibility, however, doesn't make the octogenarian any less of an artist. Navigating New York with his humble Schwinn, clad in his blue canvas jacket, Cunningham doesn't miss a trick or a trend. In an era when anyone can take a digital photo and upload it to the Internet, he still shoots on film, and style mavens pour through his columns, "On the Street" and "Evening Hours," to see what's hip and whether or not they made the cut. For all his talent, though, Cunningham, a devout Catholic, eschews free drinks and other perks, and has lived in the same humble Carnegie Hall studio for 50 years. Press injects some suspense into the scenario when circumstances force Cunningham out of this rent-controlled paradise. Fortunately, a solution will be forthcoming. Along the way, Bonfire of the Vanities author Tom Wolfe, Vogue editor Anna Wintour (star of the equally fine September Issue), and other observers offer their thoughts, though Press always returns to Cunningham, whose joie de vivre will surely prove irresistible even to those who normally couldn't care less about cameras and clothes. --Kathleen C. Fennessy