Tuesday, January 29, 2013
BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK
dir. Richard Press
Here's a documentary I streamed, somewhat by chance, Saturday night on netflix. I can't remember the last time I was so unexpectedly and profoundly inspired.
Bill Cunningham [b. 1929] is the guy who takes all those street fashion pix for The New York Times, and has forever. He rides around Manhattan on an old Schwinn, gets his film developed a what looks like a mom-and-pop convenience store, and sleeps in a cot in the same tiny studio where he's lived for decades. By night he photographs high society and celebs; day in, day out, he himself wears the same kind of sturdy blue smock worn by Parisian street-sweepers.
He loves color, cut, the male and female form. Women's Wear Daily, where he was employed in the late '70s, once used his photos in a mean-spirited, ridiculing way; devastated, he quit. Near the end of the film he's asked, "Have you ever had a romantic relationship? "Are you asking if I'm gay?" he cackles. He doesn't quite answer but he does say, "No, I've never had a relationship. It just never came up! We didn't speak of things like that in our family. I've been too busy. I wouldn't have the time."
"You've said you go to church every Sunday," the interviewer continues. "Is that a big part of your life?"
Here he bows his head, close to tears, and for many moments, sits speechless. "Well, as a child I'd just sit in church and look at the women's hats, he says finally. "When you're older, yes, you need the guidance"...
Here is a man who at the day of judgment is simply going to be able to give the best possible account of himself. He didn't waste his time. He wasn't against anything. He wasn't trying to prove anything. He was living life to the absolute hilt, every second.
At the end of the film I googled his name and was vastly consoled to see he's still alive. I thought: I hope this man lives forever!
But of course, he already has.