Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
USA/France, 2010. First Thought Films. Cinematography by Tony Cenicola, Richard Press. Produced by Philip Gefter. Music by Brooke Wentz. Film Editing by Ryan Denmark.
One moment in this deliciously fun documentary stands out above all the others: Bill Cunningham, New York City photographer extraordinaire, waits outside a Paris fashion show and allows himself to be detained before his credentials are confirmed. Noticing that the man who has been snapping shots of clothing on stages and on the street for decades is waiting and not being appreciated, another employee swoops in, grabs Cunningham by the arm and tells the now-ashamed guard “This is the most important person in the world.”
Perhaps that’s a hyperbolic statement, but in the world of clothing and style you could barely point out anyone with more influence or connectivity than Cunningham, who has been taking pictures of people and their clothes and publishing them in the New York Times for decades, giving equal time to cocktail dresses and opera gowns as he does to what’s hot on the sidewalks of the Big Apple. You would never know that this shy, elderly gentleman constantly clicking away on the streets once had the ear of Brooke Astor or gets in close with Anna Wintour at a moment’s notice; certainly the occasional girls who threaten to break his camera are unaware of his stature, particularly as his demeanor is humble and charming and his devotion to his work is purely inspired by a love of style.
Cunningham takes no (or very little) money for his work because it means he has complete control over what he does (and how he manages that is still something of a mystery), and does not care a whit for celebrities (when asked why he didn’t join the bank of photographers who were shooting away at Catherine Deneuve in Paris, he casually announces that she wasn’t wearing anything that interested him).
Director Richard Press gives us a terrific, up-close view of this wonderful man who is an inspiration to anyone who wanted to make a life out of their passion, with a rich view of both his portfolio as well as his influence.