The majority of us trudge through the work week counting down the hours until the weekend or our next vacation because work is... well, work. It is always so refreshing and intriguing to come across someone on a whole different trajectory when it comes to their job. For these people, there is no definite line between work time and play time because they enjoy what they do for a living so much that they can't imagine their life without it. Bill Cunningham is such a prime example of living life as so and, through a exploration of his life, this documentary gives you beautiful glimpse into why that might be.
As the camera follows him around during his day to day life in New York, and on a trip to Paris, Bill exudes a sense of blissful focus and attention to the world around him always with a beaming smile on his face. A smile that turned out to be highly contagious as I bore a similar ear to ear grin during almost the entire film. As the filmmakers interviewed New York City socialites, editors, and fellow artists about Bill everyone seemed immediately lifted and filled with joy just speaking about him and the fervent approach he has towards his work.
At one point in the movie you see Bill's last minute scramble to pick up his film containing the pictures he is going to use for his "On the Street" feature in the New York Times. You heard me, actual film! I found myself longing for a time before everything was digital and quick. There is a undeniable charm to the life of simplicity that Bill leads. Though he can be found at all of the biggest social events everything else in his life is unembellished and sincere. He lives amongst those leading the most glamorous of lives while finding the utmost enjoyment in capturing it rather than taking part. His home at the time this film was made resided above the magnificent Carnegie Hall but this studio apartment was a small room filled with file cabinets and a small bed nestled in between. No kitchen, no closets, only a communal bathroom down the hallway... and that was just the way he liked it. I couldn't help but start to recognize all of the things I think I have to have in my life that I would probably be happier without.
Watching this film and having the opportunity to see the way that Bill Cunningham perceives fashion really resonated with me. His perspective on fashion is based only on what catches his eye as he walks the streets each day and in a world where we are bombarded from every direction with images, media, advertisements and celebrity his kind of unbiased view is hard to come by. His ability to ride through New York every day on his bike and recognize the beauty in everyone around him proved by the end of the film to be about so much more than identifying fashion in the traditional sense. He is able to document the changes in how people express who they are through what they wear. As he says, "If we all went out looking like a slob like me it would be a pretty dreary world".
Yes, lovers of fashion and the New York will adore this film but I am certain that those who have no interest in either of the two will enjoy it just as much. It is a story about the eccentric fashion world that Bill Cunningham lives within but even more so it is a unique look into the life of a truly extraordinary person.
Bill Cunningham New York opens on Friday, April 29th at the Harvard Exit Theatre on Capitol Hill. Go see this one readers. It is an absolute joy and you will leave the theater feeling much better than when you arrived.
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