And as it digs deeper, the film becomes a remarkable exploration of the true meaning of success.
Bill Cunningham is a pure photojournalist with a passion for fashion. At 80, he's been riding his bicycle around Manhattan for 50 years snapping photos of street fashion: where catwalk meets consumer. His iconic pages in The New York Times are watched by the fashion industry for trends that no one else has noticed. But Cunningham lives in an overcrowded one-room studio in Carnegie Hall. He has no appetite for celebrity, fine food or clothes, romance or money, and is happiest when he spots a particularly colourful person on the street.
The film explores Cunningham's work through the people who know him best. But they don't know much about his private life, so director Press gets increasingly close to Cunningham himself as he interacts with old pals like his neighbour Sherman, his patient editor Kurdewan and his Parisian mentor Piaggi.
Finally, Press asks questions point-blank to fill in the gaps, revealing a wildly successful man who's neither rich nor famous. And he prefers it that way.
Cunningham is a terrific on-screen presence, endlessly optimistic about everything he encounters, unable to make a distinction between the very wealthy and the poorest people on the street. Wintour comments that everyone watches who he photographs, as he has no interest in the stars: he's looking at the clothes. So when he snaps a picture of a catwalk model, everyone knows that he's seen something special. Or maybe he's just noticing that a designer has stolen someone else's idea.
The film is edited together in a fast-paced way that allows the filmmakers to include all kinds of material. This makes the doc feel rather a lot longer than it actually is, but the cheerful tone and warm, thorough approach hold our interest. As does the way the filmmaker slices through the eccentric, artistic personalities to make some pointed comments about politics, commercialism and society. But best of all are Cunningham's own frank observations: "Fashion is the armour we need to survive everyday life."
Run time: 84 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 16th March 2011
Box Office USA: $1.5M
Box Office Worldwide: $1.3M
Distributed by: Zeitgeist Films
Production compaines: First Thought Films
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 99%
Fresh: 66 Rotten: 1
IMDB: 7.9 / 10
Director: Richard Press
Producer: Philip Gefter
As with his Formula One documentary Senna, filmmaker Asaf Kapadia cleverly uses archival footage to...
This declining franchise really needed a jolt to the head, but the producers disappointingly opt...
Resisting the temptation to capitalise on the camp value of these characters, Channing Tatum and...
Wacky enough to make us smile but never laugh out loud, this screwball comedy harks...
A relentless onslaught of violent action, this movie is notable mainly because there's a woman...
First-time feature filmmaker John Maclean takes a strikingly original approach to the Western, creating a...
Despite this being a film about Sherlock Holmes, the fact that it's not much of...
Both shameless and shamelessly entertaining, this relentlessly boyish movie carries on exactly as the TV...