He’s been doing this for nearly a half-century (with 28 bikes stolen) while living a monk-like existence in what is, essentially, a closet above Carnegie Hall with no kitchen and no bathroom.
He has no apparent interest in the superficial aspects of haute couture. The famous people who court him hold no power over him (he won’t even accept a glass of water from the hosts when shooting a high society gala event). Despite this simple, down-to-earth demeanor, Cunningham is a complex character and his deeper philosophy is suggested by what is perhaps the most famous quote of his from the film:
The wider world perceives fashion as a frivolity that should be done away with. The point is fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life. I don’t think you can do away with it. It would be like doing away with civilization.
And when honored with the Officier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture in Paris he tearfully reminds us that: “He who seeks beauty shall find it.” At that moment we, the audience, are aware that this is the larger purpose to which Cunningham has dedicated his life.
I enjoyed the film because of its depiction of this individual’s extraordinary humanity and because it was great fun to see him trundle around NYC taking photographs on his bicycle.
I’m not particularly interested in fashion, but I thought this was a spectacular film about a true artist.