I saw a sensational documentary last night at the Eastman (Kodak) Dryden theater in Rochester, perfectly timed to kick off Bike to Work Week (check out the movie trailer here: Bill Cunningham New York trailer). Few people have the mastery of urban riding in NYC, let alone at the age of 80. Bill Cunningham, on his 29th bicycle, not only rides the streets of NY but has been doing so in search of fashion trends for the NY Times, Women’s Wear Daily and a host of iconic publications. A cross between a war photographer and a Manhattan bike messenger, Cunningham shoots around by bike, wearing trousers, industrial blue jacket (worn by the street workers in France), tweed cap, sensible shoes, a simple cross-body bag in which he keeps his camera and many rolls of film.
You’ve no doubt seen the “on the street” page in the Style section of the Sunday New York Times or watched the onthestreet segments he narrates online. That’s all Bill, armed solely with a bicycle and his camera. This marvelous 88 minute documentary, Bill Cunningham New York, is a fashion joy ride that gets to the heart of his incredible passion and extraordinary humility. The world he sees is a delight for anybody who wonders how trends emerge. He lets the street to speak to him. He jumps off his bike and literally spins in a circle on a NYC street corner snapping photos of what he sees that’s fresh and original. He’s a fashion legend who attends all the best events but lives like a mouse without a kitchen or closet.
The movie is full of colorful characters and a point of view about creativity and vision that’s really inspiring. A feel good, look good, ride good movie that I personally can’t stop thinking about.
Currently playing at select theaters. DVD will eventually be available through Zeitgeist films or on Netflix.