The personality and dedication of the late street photographer Bill Cunningham, whose photos appeared in the New York Times for decades, come through appealingly in this film built around an interview with him by Mark Bozek, who parlayed it into “The Times of Bill Cunningham,” with a narration by Sarah Jessica Parker.
Cunningham, who died in 2016, speaks candidly about how he got started and his approach to snapping photos of those who intrigued him during his prowling of Manhattan’s streets on his succession of bicycles. It is clear how much he loved the work that defined his life.
At one point he is seen tearing up and having to pause to get his bearings. The cause is his grief at the deaths of friends during the AIDS epidemic, tragedies too grim to bear.
What gives the film particular life is the avalanche of Cunningham’s photos shown throughout, from his capturing of Greta Garbo to the parade of subjects who intrigued him for their fashion, celebrity of other standout features and oddities.
This is both a plus and a frustration. While the extensive photo examples are fascinating, it is also frustrating to see them rush by so quickly. It is like running through a museum. One would like to linger on so many shots. Of course, that is not convenient in a film that would be made so very much longer. But the impulse to rest a while on so many images is there.
Bozek’s film contributes importantly to the lore that has been built round Cunningham’s remarkable and unique career, and helps us get to know the man and his mindset, marked by his very human feelings toward others and toward his life’s work. A Greenwich Entertainment release. Reviewed February 14, 2020.