A documentary by James Crump. Rating unavailable
If anyone wants to know about the party side of Bill Cunningham, the New York Times street photographer who died in 2016, this movie is the place to go. Even buttoned-down Bill got Saturday-night fever when Puerto Rican–born fashion maven Antonio Lopez and his nocturnal entourage took over Manhattan.
Before being felled by AIDS in 1987, Lopez became fabulously influential not as a photographer or clothes designer but as an illustrator, and as a prodigious seducer of both men and women. Most fashionistas can draw a little, but Lopez created elaborate fantasy worlds in multiple styles that could range from Peter Max psychedelia to Tom of Finland leather kitsch.
He did these dense yet remarkably fluid works with the help of the more recessive Juan Ramos, a fellow Nuyorican who brought art-history knowledge and business acumen to the in-the-moment Lopez, whose flamboyance impressed, annoyed, and overshadowed everyone else, including Andy Warhol and, after he moved to Paris, resentful Yves Saint Laurent and generous Karl Lagerfeld.
Most enduringly, Lopez championed model-muses of multiple ethnicities and body types, and his big discoveries—Grace Jones, Jessica Lange, Pat Cleveland, Patti D’Arbanville—all went on to notable 1970s careers on camera, in movies, and on record. Then there’s Jerry Hall, to whom he was engaged at one point. It’s a shame she’s not on hand to comment, since she now lives with his polar opposite, Rupert Murdoch. But the other survivors, speaking here, are uniformly enthusiastic about Lopez’s charms.
In fact, general gushiness is the most tiresome thing about this otherwise engaging doc from filmmaker James Crump, who previously profiled ill-fated photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and others. The movie is somewhat randomly assembled, with overly obvious music choices (“Le Freak”, anyone?), and not enough attention is paid to Lopez’s actual art, given that’s what started all the fuss. Still, to see the taciturn Cunningham laugh out loud at the memory of his old friend makes it more than worthwhile.