As a lead-in to next week's Memphis Fashion Week, organizers teamed up with Indie Memphis for a film series featuring a trio of fashion documentaries. The first, which screened earlier in the month, was the disturbing Girl Model, which follows young Siberian girls being recruited to model in Japan. The second was Ultra Suede: In Search of Halston, notable not only for its striking subject but also for the filmmaker's wonderfully awkward interviews and the unveiling of the fact that the designer's archives are stored at a Bible college in Nashville.
For this series, third time's the charm — specifically, the you'll-smile-through-it 2010 film Bill Cunningham New York, screening Tuesday. Cunningham, 80 at the time the film was made, rides his bike around New York, capturing the bright, wild, and sometimes dangerous fashions on the streets for The New York Times.
There is the blare of big style and big personalities featured in the film, but what makes Bill Cunningham so interesting is that the subject is a contradiction to all he documents: he spends a lot of time with the very, very wealthy yet he was living in an apartment with no kitchen or bathroom; he wears the same poly-blend jacket of Paris street cleaners while shooting the Paris fashion shows; and, too, while he's made a name for himself by pointing a camera lens, he seems a bit uncomfortable when the lens is pointed back at him.
Toward the end of the film, Cunningham is awarded the Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture. Says Cunningham during his acceptance speech, "He who seeks beauty will find it."
"Bill Cunningham New York" at Studio on the Square, Tuesday, March 25th, 7 p.m. $7. memphisfashionweekend.com