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The Independent Critic

Bill Cunningham and Interviews with Vogue editor Anna Wintour, Tom Wolfe, Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and others.
Richard Press
84 Mins.
Zeitgeist Films
High-definition master, enhanced for widescreen viewing;
20 minutes of additional scenes;
Original U.S. theatrical trailer;
5.1 surround and stereo soundtracks;
English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired (SDH);
12-page collectible booklet with a director's statement and more

 "Bill Cunningham New York" Review 
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Bill Cunningham is an 80+ year-old photojournalist for the New York Times whose columns "On the Street" and "Evening Hours" have chronicled the cultural lives of New Yorkers for decades.

Directed by Richard Press, Bill Cunningham New York captures an inspired and lively story centered around the Schwinn-riding photographer who spends the majority of his days waiting for New York's fashion statements to come to him on the streets and along the street corners of New York City neighborhoods.

It took Press several years to convince the surprisingly humble and comfortably behind-the-scenes Cunningham to actually participate in the making of this 84-minute documentary, currently on a limited nationwide release with distrib Zeitgeist Films and preparing to open in Indianapolis on June 24th, 2011. Cunningham is a true New York City institution, evidenced by Press's ability to get Vogue editor Anna Wintour, Tom Wolfe, Brooke Astor and David Rockefeller on the screen to talk about Cunningham.

As an indie writer, it's hard not to admire Cunningham's rather relentless dedication to his craft and life mission. A lifelong bachelor, Cunningham lives in a rent-controlled studio in Carnegie Hall, a studio that no kitchen, no bathroom (it's down the hall) and so few belongings that you'd practically swear the guy's in the priesthood. Yet, it is when Bill Cunningham New York is focused on the mundane everyday aspects of Bill's life that it's at its most appealing. Press captures both the incredibly festive moments and the challenges that Cunningham faces on a daily basis as  he continues to hit the streets and meet his deadlines while proving to be one of New York's most enduring historians for all things related to fashion, culture and the changing essence of the city.

Cunningham shouldn't be mistaken as paparazzi, for he's often photographing the ordinary, everyday New Yorker who also happens to be making fashion statements. While he's worked with celebs, he was a milliner in the 50's whose clients included Ginger Rogers and Marilyn Monroe, Cunningham seems to take more joy in his work on the streets as he rides about town on his Schwinn (reportedly his 28th bike). Very little is actually known about Cunningham's background, and he seems to prefer to keep it that way. Instead, Cunningham allows his daily life and, even moreso, his camera to do the talking. Despite his incredible passion for fashion, Cunningham himself is rather simple in language and presentation.

Bill Cunningham New York features camera work by Press and Tony Cenicola that remarkably mirrors the sort of everyday essence that defines Cunningham's life. Ryan Denmark's editing is top notch, capturing both the briskness of being a photographer on the street with the rather serene nature of Cunningham's life when the camera's not in his hands.

It may seem an unusual choice to have a doc about a New York City photographer play the Midwest, yet this is exactly the type of story that Hoosier audiences will embrace with its hard-working and humble central character whose passion and commitment to life are inspiring and entertaining to watch.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic