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Bill Cunningham New York

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Product Details

  • Directors: Richard Press
  • Format: Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: UNRATED
  • Studio: Warner Music
  • Release Date: Sept. 13 2011
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • ASIN: B0050I975Q
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #28,016 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)
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Product Description

Product Description

Bill Cunningham New York

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

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Most helpful customer reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Artlete on July 24 2013
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I knew nothing about Bill Cunningham before this movie, and I am just completely inspired by him. What a genuine, fun-loving soul.
Has a great eye for spotting gorgeous trends and comes off as a very down to earth human being.

Love this!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 131 reviews
49 of 52 people found the following review helpful
Unforgettable! A Classic! Aug. 28 2011
By Natalie Cladt - Published on
Format: DVD
Prior to watching BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK, my unexamined assumptions about him - a Times fashion photog - were that he must be a man who spends his days and nights hanging around fabulous people and documenting all the fabulous things they do. In short, not typically my thing. However, after watching BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK, what emerges in this terrifically edited film is a deeply profound and beautiful study of a TOTAL artist working within the grayer than ever world of journalism. This is one of the most carefully and delicately plotted documentaries I've seen in some time and the ending of this film is ... devastating! Yet, even with the rather dark and sad turn that this film takes toward the end (you'll have to see it), you'll walk away from this doc feeling buoyed by the spirit and character of this remarkable and remarkably unusual man. This is a classic and he is a class act.
29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
The Sage of Seventh Avenue Oct. 15 2011
By Doctor.Generosity - Published on
Format: DVD
I came across this doc film clicking around on Netflix streaming late one night. At first it seemed puzzling why anyone would make a documentary about an old guy who works for the New York Times riding a bicycle around and photographing street fashions. But I quickly got drawn into the film and understood how the filmakers had chosen this unusual man.

Bill Cunningham, now in his 80's, has worked for many years as a street photographer, riding precariously around Manhatten on his bicycle and snapping (film) photos of what people are wearing. In an age when there is so much corruption in all walks of life, what comes out in the film is Cunningham's unique sense of personal integrity. In a city obsessed with status, he seems to care nothing for status or celebrity or personalities; he is only interested in the clothes, the ideas. When he attends society and fashion functions in the evening, which he does almost every evening, he declines to accept food or drink; it would compromise his ethics. Indeed here is a man who has no apparent vices and minimal personal life. He lives frugally. He strives to be honest. He strives to do no harm. He cares little for his comfort. He has simply made a life of observing how people in New York express themselves through fashion; it is enough for him. "I have tried to play a straight game" he says about his life.

One might not be surprised to hear that a medieval monk or pure mathematician or a scholar of ancient languages had such an ascetic and, one may say, spiritually refined existence, but in the New York fashion world! And so he is a beloved fixture in New York. An inspiring documentary, which affirms how one can live in the everyday world and yet hold to an "impeccable path."
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
The best movie of the year May 2 2011
By Casey - Published on
This is one of the warmest charming movies I have ever seen. Everyone that lives in a major city (and everyone else too for that matter) should see this movie. I love you Bill!
20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
"It's as true today as it ever was--he who seeks beauty will find it." June 24 2012
By A fellow with a keyboard - Published on
Format: DVD
This is a complicated film to rate. I give the filmmakers 4.7 stars for production, 1.3 stars for the intended message, and 5 stars for the unintended message they left me with.

Re: production, the director/production team unearthed some wonderful old footage and tied it in with the new footage elegantly and even powerfully. They picked interviewees who were colorful, both literally and figuratively. They tied strings of narrative through the documentary in order to make it less like a dry profile. And most impressively, they knew what to leave out: they didn't show Bill Cunningham living in his new apartment, and they didn't show Bill Cunningham at church. Those would have been obvious things to do, but they didn't do it, and I applaud them for that.

But in terms of thoughtfulness, in terms of helping us understand why any of this matters, the filmmakers left something to be desired. If the film had ended after the first 60 minutes, I would have given it exactly 1 star. That's because in the first 60 minutes, interspersed between interviews with ultra-status-conscious people who were out to convince the world (and themselves) that they were unique little flowers, the filmmakers were giving us little nuggets of junior varsity wisdom. They were appealing to our inner-adolescent with lessons like "follow your passion" and "express yourself" and "be nice to each other."

The final 24 minutes, though, were very interesting, much less adolescent-y, and, at times, moving. We start to get glimpses of how this is more than an obsession for Bill, how it is all-absorbing to the exclusion of all else (including romantic relationships), and we start to get glimpses (albeit somewhat unconvincing ones) of why it matters to him:

* "The wider world that perceives fashion as a frivolity that should be done away with in the face of social upheavals and problems that are enormous-- the point is, in fact, that fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life."
* "I don't think you could do away with fashion. It would be like doing away with civilization."
* "I just like fashion as an art form of dressing the body. If we all went out looking like a slob like me, it would be a pretty dreary world."
* "I'm not interested in celebrities. The cut, the lines, the colors... that's everything."
* "It's not work. I'm just having fun."

There is something about the philosophical nature of these quotes or the way he expressed them that made them not 100% convincing. They seemed more like rationalizations than reasons. But then, in a speech he gives at a ceremony in Paris, we finally get the real reason, and we know it is the real reason because he can't contain his emotions.

"It's as true today as it ever was--he who seeks beauty will find it."

It's a touching moment and one that defines the film. Or ought to have defined the film. Every decision about what to include or exclude in this film ought to have been based on that single line.

And that's where the filmmakers fall short. For them, the climax of the film is a different moment, the one where they try to penetrate his private life, asking about his sexuality and his religion. They are just trying to deliver the juice, the gossipy details that we all desire to know. But they do not ask the much more important questions:

* If it's beauty he's seeking, why doesn't he find it elsewhere, in music or food or any aesthetic other than clothing? In particular, why doesn't he find it in people (rather than just on their clothes or their bodies)?
* Why is he so unreflective w/r/t his one-dimensionality? When asked if he has any regrets about not having romantic relationships, his response was along the lines of "no, I never had the time to consider it." Really, Bill? Never while you were out riding your bike? Never while you were in a dark room processing your film did you wonder whether there wasn't more to life than what you were doing?

The filmmakers paint Bill Cunningham as a wise, loveable, almost martyr-like figure, someone who devoted his life to his passion. An American hero. Bill Cunningham is more complicated than that. He's a man who has been greatly influenced by Catholicism - you can see it in his morality, his relentless work, his asceticism, and his concern for aesthetics - but his asceticism has seeped into his aesthetics so that he seeks beauty in only one form. The filmmakers are right about the admirable and honorable parts of Bill Cunningham, but they miss (or don't pay enough attention to) the other parts.


Update 11/23: I was reminded of this movie over and over again while watching Searching for Sugar Man.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
My Favorite movie this year!!! Aug. 24 2011
By dmj777 - Published on
Bill Cunningham New York snuck up on me and made me feel so many things... First, If you love NYC this is a must see film. I had no idea who Bill Cunningham was, however his story changed my life. Bill's passion for fashion on the streets of NYC is the premise of the film. It will prompt you to find your passion and live it!! Can't wait till it is out on DVD. I will buy it the day it comes out and share with friends who didn't get a chance to see it in theatres.

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