DV Magazine just published a really lovely feature on how our director Ben Harrison puts together Put This On. For those of you interested in filmmaking, or just a peek behind the curtain at the inner workings of our web series, it’s a really interesting read. And the lovely photos by our friend Zac Wolf don’t hurt, either.
Bill Cunningham New York is out on DVD, and you can also find it on Netflix Instant. It’s a documentary about Bill Cunningham, the On the Street photographer for the New York Times, who also has been shooting society events and fashion shows since the couture era.
The 80-something Cunningham lives a monastic life: he spent fifty years in a studio apartment in Carnegie Hall, the walls of which were lined with filing cabinets full of photographs. Indeed, the apartment had no other features besides filing cabinets of photographs: the bathroom was down the hall, and the bed was simply a bedroll on top of some plywood on top of some filing cabinets.
Cunningham simply lives clothes. Every morning, he puts on his trademark work smock (he buys them in bulk for $20 each at a hardware store in Paris), pulls his bike out of a janitor’s closet in his building, and hits the street, documenting the beauty around him. If you’ve ever watched one of his slideshows for NYTimes.com, you know that his eye is informed and discerning, but also gloriously enthusiastic, democratic and non-judgemental. Follow his work for a month and you’ll see society doyennes, drag queens, Harlem teenagers and everything in between.
Then, at night, he puts on an orange safety vest and pedals to charity benefits - he refuses to look at guest lists and picks solely based on what he thinks of the charity, and he won’t eat or even drink their food. He simply documents, documents, documents.
The film is so filled with inspiration, it almost boils over. Cunningham’s beautiful, half-French, half-English speech as he is inducted into the French Order of Arts & Letters is not to be missed. “Seek beauty, and you’ll find it.”
The movie touches upon Cunningham the man, as well. He is, as he admits, both garrulous and open and fiercely guarded. We tried to book him for season one of our show and were turned down flat - the documentarians, friends of his, worked for years to convince him to participate. He goes to mass every week, and has never had a romantic relationship.
If, like me, you’re turned off by the fashion industry, Cunningham may restore your faith in its possibilities. He’s questioned about whether fashion matters, whether he should have dedicated his life dealing with the “real problems” of the “real world.” Our clothes, he says, are our armor: that which gives us the strength to engage the world instead of shrinking from it. He’s a man who believes, really, in beauty. His sincerity and open heart are absolutely magical.
Seriously: watch the film.
Buster Keaton in “College.”
Photographer Bruce Weber talks in 2001 with Charlie Rose about in his short film “The Teddy Boys of The Edwardian Draper Society.” It’s about a group who revived the Teddy Boy subculture - English rock-and-rollers from the 1950s who wore Edwardian clothing. Weber, of course, is well-known in party for his contribution to very different fashion movements - Abercrombie & Fitch’s shirtless dudes and Calvin Klein’s dudes in underpants.
I re-watched a favorite film last night, “To Catch a Thief.” The above ensemble, which Cary Grant wears for the series of scenes, is one of the best in film history. It captures the relaxed elegance of a retired jewel thief living in a French resort town perfectly. The gray flannels, which Grant wears for much of the film, are so elegant it hurts the eyes. The outfit even makes me think (along with the rest of the film) that maybe a neckerchief isn’t so nutty. On the other hand, I’m not Cary Grant.
For the ladies, by the way… Grace Kelly has a few truly spectacular looks in the film, but I was perhaps most impressed by her gorgeous pajamas. If anyone knows where I can find a similar pair for the Mrs., do let me know.
Our pal Matt Haughey says this scene from Joe vs. the Volcano strikes him as PTO-ish. Ossie Davis teaches Tom Hanks a thing or two about dressing like the man he is.
Bill Cunningham is everything that’s right about fashion. He’s a street photographer. A real street photographer. He doesn’t hang out outside fashion shows and shoot models when they come outside to smoke. He dons his anorak, jumps on his bike and rides it all over New York City, taking pictures of what he notices. He isn’t trying to shape trends, he’s just trying to capture the flavor of what’s On the Street. He isn’t interested in predicting trends or capturing the marketplace. He just returns humane photographs of real people in interesting outfits.
I tried my damndest to interview Cunningham for Season One of PTO, and was rebuffed by the Times’ publicity department, but I still hold out hope for the future. In the meantime, I’m excited about this feature documentary.
I promise I’m not just reblogging every one of Alex’s Date Night posts, but I thought I’d share this one because too few folks saw this excellent film. Adrian Brody’s elegance is nonpareil.
In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that Rian Johnson, who directed The Brothers Bloom, is a friend of ours and a big PTO booster. He has even, in past, been in INTENSE TALKS to be a guest director on a future PTO episode. At the moment, he’s working on a new movie with the star of his first film Brick, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and we expect it’ll be another winner. With Rian and JGL on board, we can expect it will be stylish.
Don’t miss this remarkable dissection of the clothes Sean Connery wore as James Bond in Dr. No. A wonderful piece, and a tribute to the basics - navy blazers, dark blue grenadine ties, forward pleats, elegant black tie.