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“Bill Cunningham New York,” Reviewed

“Bill Cunningham New York,” Reviewed (photo)

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Bill Cunningham is an unlikely subject for a documentary since like most photographers, he’d much rather be doing the documenting. As a staple of the Sunday New York Times Style section, Cunningham has been responsible for illustrating society high and low with the “Evening Hours” and “On the Street” columns that cover the entire strata of fashion in the city. And beyond the fact that it apparently took director Richard Press a decade to convince the notoriously private Cunningham to serve as the basis for a film, while the city and its denizens have changed dramatically in the half-century Cunningham has taken pictures, the photographer has not.

Outfitted in the same blue jacket he picked up decades ago and on his 29th Schwinn bike (since he’s had 28 stolen from him over the years), Cunningham glides effortlessly down 5th Avenue from his apartment right above Carnegie Hall, forsaking the luxury of the people he photographs for a complete dedication to chronicling what they wear. He won’t drink at the parties, the bed in his cramped apartment is merely an inconvenience on his way to voluminous file cabinets, and he hardly takes notice of cabs that threaten to hit him in the street as he snaps pictures with one hand on his camera and another on a handlebar. Such commitment has earned him the respect and time of the likes of Anna Wintour and the late Brooke Astor, who make rare on-camera appearances to attest to Cunningham’s discrete charms, though it has left him without much of a life to call his own.

“Bill Cunningham New York” makes few judgments in this regard, ultimately bringing up the photographer’s lack of any real relationships aside from the one to his camera as something other than a quirky character trait near the end of the film. It’s that reticence both of the subject and filmmaker Richard Press of delving much deeper that keeps it mostly on the surface, but then again, that’s the most accurate way to approach Cunningham, who at one point sees a throng of paparazzi around Catherine Deneuve and asks why anyone cares about anything but what she wears. Fortunately for Press, Cunningham is naturally charismatic, an ease with people that’s likely come with decades of asking them to take their picture, and has some endemic drama with the impending eviction from his Carnegie Hall perch, of which only he and the nonagenarian artist Editta Sherman still pay a rent-controlled $530 a month.

One might think the main appeal of “Bill Cunningham New York” would be the hook of a survivor story since Cunningham’s immediately distinguishing trait is that he’s still taking photographs well into his eighties, capturing the trends that dictate the style of generations well behind him. However, it’s the single-mindedness of Cunningham about his work that is so infectious as well as so strange, given that he prides himself on blending into a crowd when he prizes those who stand out more than all else. Though it might’ve been against his own wishes, it’s something of a privilege for the rest of us that he’s been allowed to stand out with his own film since the only thing more fleeting these days than the fashion Cunningham has illustrated in the pages of the Times is the passion he holds for his craft.

“Bill Cunningham New York” is now open in New York and Los Angeles.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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