Few have not heard of him. Bill Cunningham, the man in the blue jacket who rode around New York City, photographing random women on the street who displayed a sense of high fashion. Bill Cunningham, the man whose good-natured demeanor won the heart of every person that he associated with. And now, we have a documentary, helmed by Mark Bozek, to memorialize the man some referred to as "the nostradamus of fashion and society for over 60 years".
The documentary, narrated by Sarah Jessica Parker, stems from an interview that Bozek recorded of Cunningham years before - humble and apologetic and unsure of how to tell the story of his life, Cunningham is perhaps the most adorable man to ever be interviewed, well aware of his fame but completely unaffected by it. Intercut with photos Cunningham took and old snapshots of his early life, we get up close and personal.
Bill didn't start off in fashion photography, of course. He started off designing hats. Known as William J, he was mesmerized by the illustrious hats worn by women in public, and so he began to make them. And from hats, he moved onto fashion writing - as he says in an interview, they tried to get him away from hats and dresses because "they didn't think it was a profession for a man".
But that's what Bill Cunningham was about. He didn't care about big to-do events when women were expected to dress up, he cared about the style that women exuded while going shopping, or out to lunch. As time went on, that style was harder and harder to come by because more and more women began dressing casually - they no longer have the style they had in the movies - but that's what he was interested in. He was interested in the women who stylistically made their presence known.
You wouldn't have guessed it, looking at his own choice of clothing. "I know I should care how I look," he says in the documentary, "but it's more important that I go out and get the right picture." The only times he would dress up were when women would give him their husbands' old clothing. He finally settled into his "costume" - a blue jacket worn by sanitation workers, paired with that bicycle, and he was the most recognizable man on the street.
What makes this documentary so great is the interview itself, which really makes you feel as if you've gotten to know Bill. The connection is easily made through nostalgic memories, whether happy or tragic, that he rehashes. And what memories they are of a man who just wanted to capture those exquisite moments of style. As Parker narrates at the end of this doc, "Many wonder if there will ever be anyone like Bill Cunningham to dress for again."
THE TIMES OF BILL CUNNINGHAM is now available now on VOD at www.midtowncinema.com! This is a film you won't want to miss out on.