Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I heart Bill Cunningham, New York

This weekend, I finally got a chance to see a movie that’s been on my must-see list for a month: Bill Cunningham, New York.

Photo credit: First Thought Films/Zeitgeist Films

Most people know Bill Cunningham through his photos in The New York Times – he has a column on street fashion (my favorite!) and another on NYC’s glamorous party circuit. But you probably don’t know much about him, because it turns out…no one really does. This film gives us all a little peek inside the world of one of the city’s great artistic voices (and true characters!).

Above all, I have to say that I cannot recommend this movie highly enough! I honestly can’t remember a time when I was so utterly enchanted by a film – I smiled for 84 minutes straight (when I wasn’t laughing out loud!), and I left this movie feeling like my perspective on the world had shifted just a little. If you love fashion, art, photography, or New York City even a little bit, you NEED to see this movie! It is playing in tiny theaters in cities all over the country – check here to see if it is playing near you!

I think we could all learn a thing or two (or million) from Mr. Cunningham. Here are just a few of my the things I’ve taken to heart:

>>Feed your passion, then your body
Food comes up several times during the movie. Most notably, Bill mentions that he does not accept a plate of food or even a glass of water at any of the fancy events he attends. While I doubt any of us would fault him for having a bite or two, he is resolute: he wants to maintain total objectivity. Later, he’s shown eating a sandwich in Paris and he’s asked what he thinks about food. He dismisses the plate in front of him with a shrug and a shake of his head. “Oh, I don’t care about this…” he says. Clearly, Bill is an eat-to-live kind of guy, a philosophy I’ve never really understood.

But watching this film and feasting my eyes on all of the lush prints, exquisite fabrics, and rich colors of the clothing Bill photographs, I begin to understand. He LOVES clothes, he LOVES photographing beautiful clothes, he LOVES studying the way people wear clothes. He loves his work and he is totally consumed by it: body, mind, and soul.

Now I’ll always love food, but I think that when you fill your life with passion and stimulate ALL of your senses, it is easier to keep food and and eating in the proper balance in your life. Feed your body and feed your soul – this is the recipe for a full and happy life.

>>Your own two legs are the best form of transportation
Photo credit: First Thought Films/Zeitgeist Films

For more than 50 years, Bill has been traveling the streets of NYC and arriving at the fanciest events on his trusty bicycle (well, on a number of bikes – he’s currently on #28; the first 27 have been stolen). When it rains, he wears a poncho. At night, he wears a neon vest. He cruises down quiet Central Park paths and takes in the scenery, and he battles taxi traffic in Midtown with the best of them.

And this, my friends, is completely brilliant. He never has to worry about the price of subway fares, and he never gets stuck in traffic on Fifth Avenue. What would my life be like without the frustration of my commute?? And best of all, he never has to go to the gym – when you make exercise a part of your everyday life, staying in shape is a snap!

I don’t think I’m brave enough to hit the streets on bicycle, but I can definitely walk a lot more…and take the long way. After a cold, miserable winter, I need to make sure I spend some quality time getting reacquainted with the city on foot.

>>He who seeks beauty will find it
Bill has taken a famous proverb and adapted it just slightly, and this is clearly his guiding philosophy. And this message couldn’t have come at a better time for me. Things in my world are far from perfect, and it can be so easy to focus on the negative (unsatisfying job, struggles to find work/life balance, etc.). But Bill wouldn’t even waste a minute dwelling on the ugly – in fact, when faced with the incredibly daunting challenge of being displaced from his beloved home of more than 50 years, Bill is unfazed: “I’ll be a little annoyed in the moment, but I’ll get over it!”, he laughs.

So from now on, I’m trying to view the world through Bill-colored glasses…there may be a few minor annoyances from time to time, but really, there is so much beauty still to find.

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