Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Movie Review: Bill Cunningham New York

"After Memorial Day: White Rules"- so says Bill Cunningham's Facebook page

How did this unassuming octogenarian fashion and society columnist get to be the subject of an indie-esq documentary, and the arbiter of fashion? When you consider too that he hasn't much of a taste for fashion this is particularly remarkable.

It appears the answer is decency. Yes, decency and kindness in NYC no less. And also a laser like focus on his work. This is someone who has devoted his life to covering fashion and society. And remains fully engaged after decades on the job. He lives alone in a small studio at Carnegie Hall, rides a red Schwinn through the streets of Manhattan, and sartorially speaking dons the same uniform daily. Remarkable? Quite!

This is a sampling of the persona examined in Bill Cunningham: New York from Zeitgeist Films. I was initially drawn to this film from some years of enjoying his column in the Sunday NYT. Further intrigued when a good friend, HK, sent her highest recommendation. Added bonus- a trip to Chicago's Music Box Theater.

What did I find? A touching (seriously) portrayal of a gentleman (I use that word in its truest sense), who is utterly devoted to a profession and life that he loves. Elements of his personal life are addressed, and it is done so in a gracious manner. Respectful in every way.

From my own experience, Bill Cunningham's person embodies the best of his generation. That is a commitment to service, decency, humility and relationships. I think there is something for us all to take from this portrayal. One last bit of wisdom Bill imparts- 'If you look closely enough for beauty, eventually you will find it [sic]'.

The verdict: enjoyable in every sense!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Chicago Symphony Orchestra- An Afternoon Matinee Review and Musings

It isn't often, although not unprecedented, that I score tickets to a Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) Friday afternoon matinee. My dear friend, and fellow CSO lover, RGO was kind enough to give me her ticket. Thinking this indulgence was permissible provided I blogged, off I went.

What did I find? A salute to
Trumpet Treasures with Ludovic Morlot conducting, and Christopher Martin on trumpet. Martin is a CSO Principal, and Friday's performance was an all-French program of 20th century works. Following is the featured program: Full disclosure, other than enjoying fine music and listening regularly (via local programmer WFMT), I am by no means knowledgeable in the top-tier sense. Maybe you know someone who can evaluate the quality of performances, recordings etc? Well, that's not me. That said, I found this to be a thoroughly enjoyable concert. I am sure I was surrounded by some who are true fine music afficianados. But then again maybe they, like me were simply there to enjoy this lovely music on a Friday afternoon in May. While the quality of any CSO performance is unsurpassed- to this I can attest- it is always approachable and accessible.

On this afternoon I found myself enjoying the Tomasi works particularly. Henri Tomasi's first foray into composing was in the many movie houses of Marseilles, with a particular fondness for the films of
Charlie Chaplin. During his years at the Paris Conservatory he continued to perform in cafes, hotels, cinemas and the occasional brothel to earn a living. This, I felt, evident in the music- with an almost jazz-like, melodic quality. It served to briefly transport me to the movie houses and cafes (if not a brothels) of Paris in the early to mid 20th century. Accessible music with a slightly bohemian pedigree.

I take any chance I can get to attend CSO. To the few who read this blog, I recommend a visit. It is a lovely way to spend an afternoon or evening. By doing so you are also supporting one of the cultural icons of Chicago
. With that in mind I am looking forward to the summer, Sunday afternoon concerts at Ravinia Festival. Also, In Chicago we are fortunate to have classical programming from not only WFMT, but others like WNUR. Opportunity abounds if you seize it!