After much hype, Diana Vreeland began screening in Dublin’s Lighthouse Cinema yesterday. Since I won’t get the chance to see it until next week , I took this opportunity to finally watch Richard Press’ candid documentary on the inimitable and utterly adorable Bill Cunningham. True, I didn’t know he existed until Richard Press took it upon himself to cast into the spotlight the man who has been a cult street style photographer since before it was the done thing. That in no means takes away from the man himself though, and ultimately, the wonder of ‘Bill Cunningham: New York’. I posted about the film’s London premiere in association with Grazia magazine back in February (!!) and since its subsequent release, there have been millions of reviews, thousands of column inches and even more aspersions cast about Bill’s story and the entire ensemble of characters collected within the film. I myself proffered opinions about the documentary; based entirely upon the trailer, from what I could gauge online and from poring through his archived columns for the New York Times. In effect, it was easy for me to indulge in this documentary because I had only minor details on the man and of his life’s legacy thus far.
Upon watching it this morning I was enthralled and completely fixated, as well as moved by some of the more touching and close-to-the bone parts in the documentary. The trailer depicts a maverick street style photographer, who values his camera, his negatives and his bike above all else. The trailer also depicts an enigmatic, lonely man who has dedicated his life to fashion. However, Richard Press’ genius interpretation of Bill’s day-to-day life, filled in with all manner of characters – from work colleagues at the Times, to fellow eccentrics facing eviction in Carnegie Hall, to those who know him but are unknown to Bill himself – succeeds in showing that if Bill wants, he need not be lonely, he chooses this lifestyle because it works for him.
I take with me my own assumptions on the film and on William J (the name he went by in his former life as a New York milliner), as have many others. The main thing however, which I assume was to be the aim of this documentary, is that the wonder of Bill Cunningham is now out there for all to see. And after that little rollercoaster of emotions, I can only hope Diana Vreeland’s much-anticipated biopic doesn’t let me down.