Bill Cunningham New York
The title seems to lack punctuation while seeming to also need it: Bill Cunningham New York is a documentary about a documentary photographer. The pictures Bill Cunningham takes, and has taken for half of his eighty years, document "street fashion": emerging trends in clothing as it is worn on the streets, mostly of New York.
Mr Cunningham, a former milliner, now has two columns in the Sunday Styles section of the New York Times. The movie follows him around on his long days of standing on corners photographing passerby, biking from place to place, and attending events to photograph the people there. Well, not the people. He makes it quite clear that he doesn't care about the /people/. It's the interesting clothes they wear that he wants to photograph.
It's a very engaging look at a guy who doesn't like to be looked at, but looks at everyone else. From Mrs Astor to young men wearing falling down pants, he watches, appraises, and finds the trends and standout non-cookie-cutter looks. Yet his own clothes are extremely dreary.
There are a pair of personal questions asked of Bill Cunningham that produce two very different responses. While the questions and the responses are not uninteresting — one is interesting because of what is not said — they aren't relevant to his work, or should I say hobby of photography.
That's not so bad to have, but the movie raises some questions about his photography that don't get answered. Mr Cunningham makes a point about how he does not accept money for his photos. Paraphrasing: "If they don't pay you, they can't tell you what to do." It's never made clear if he has changed that ethic in working for the NY Times, but I suspect not. So how does he earn his pay? He isn't working as a milliner any more.
I would love to see a book of Mr Cunningham's photos.
Four blue jackets out of five (or twenty-four bikes out of twenty-nine).
(Using twenty-nine because at one point he mentions he's had his previous twenty-eight bikes stolen.)