Screengrab: Dressed To Bill



Richard Lutz trawls through the detritus of this week’s tv listings to find the best film on the box. 

‘We all get dressed for Bill.’ New York fashionista Anna Wintour says.

And she means it. And the editor of American Vogue says it, in an extraordinarily small and charming movie called Bill Cunningham New York (Tues, Sky Arts 1, 17.30).

The eponymous hero of this documentary is a  funny little octogenarian who careens around the sophisticated streets of New York on an ancient bike  photographing how people, young and old, dress. Then he slaps it all on the august pages of the New York Times.

He has spotted trending  fashions  for decades from all arenas of life, from the hip to the conservative. And no one seems  to say ‘no’ when he stops his old bike and asks if he can take a snap or two

A hand held camera follows this little New Englander who lives alone in a one bedroom flat in the city and lives to take quickie pix of anyone who looks interesting.

‘I don’t take picture of celebrities,’ he says at one point, ‘Everyday life is more interesting.’

There are fine cameos of those who know and admire him: the aforesaid Anna Wintour, writer Tom Wolfe, socialite Brooke Astor, tv front guy Mike Wallace and Times boss Arthur Sulzberger. Plus the masses of ‘everyday’ folks who become his unassuming models as they cross a street, head for a subway, eat a sandwich.

Cunningham is self deprecating,  refreshingly innocent and seemingly under no self delusion he has importance in chronicling how we dress, style our hair, wear our jewellery,slap on the make up. He is an original.

His job is simply to show the world, through his pictures and Times articles, how we display ourselves, whether it is through a Mohawk hair style, ripped tights and combat boots or haute couture.

A fine film about an intriguing man. And also with a twist of a plot and a tinge of aloneness that will keep your interest.

 +The film is on other times through the week on Sky Arts 1