“It’s not about fabulous anymore. It’s about having 500 friends on Facebook and the same American Apparel outfit to wear to a festival. It was kind of the opposite then. Freak was the preferred genre.”
Anna Sui in Guy Trebay’s excellent New York Times piece on Antonio Lopez
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I saw a preview of Bill Cunningham New York and loved it. I put it in the same bracket as Vidal Sassoon The Movie and Diana Vreeland The Eye Has To Travel (which will hopefully be released at the end of this year); all three films are sensitive portrayals of passionate creatives who have led fascinating lives with grace and charm.
The film is now on general release in the UK and Ireland. You can see screening dates and times here.
I was invited to the UK premier of the Bill Cunningham New York film last week and I’m happy to report it was as good as Vidal Sassoon The Movie and The September Issue. Right from the opening frames I was hooked. This documentary captures the essence of New York, New Yorkers and the enigmatic spirit of Cunningham. For decades he has been on the streets, snapping passers-by for the New York Times, then getting his 35mm films developed at a local store. His apartment in Carnegie Hall is crammed with filing cabinets and the most basic of beds, his ‘wardrobe’ is a few wire hangers and his bathroom is a communal one down the hall. At 82 he still scoots around town on a push bike with a bumbag round his waist and his camera bag over the shoulder.
For Bill it really is all about getting the shots and all about the clothes. The film also shows him recording his commentaries for the digital version of On The Street (this week he observes how New York men are sharpening up) where he nails the week’s observations in one take. The narrative running through the film hinges on his enforced relocation from his belove Carnegie Hall apartment to a newer building, which gives the film a bittersweet storyline. But overall it’s an honest and uplifting portrait of a man and a city with glimpses of the industry and some of its colourful characters.
Bill Cunningham New York will be released in select UK cinemas on March 16.
As a side note, I was rather taken with Mr Cunningham’s daily ‘uniform’ of chinos and blue-on-blue layers – Yves Klein workman’s jacket, sky blue oxford shirt and cornflower sweater-over-the-shoulders. Plus rain poncho and Sorel boots for inclement weather (which is when he gets his best photos). I’m quite partial to a rain poncho and a sweater over the shoulders myself, not to mention a bumbag or two. Ines De La Fressange paid her own homage to Bill at the couture shows a couple of weeks ago, where she donned a Cunningham-esque blue shirt and cap to photograph show-goers for Madame Figaro. Wonder if it’ll catch on?