A documentary about Anthony Bourdain and his career as a chef, writer and host, revered and renowned for his authentic approach to food, culture and travel.A documentary about Anthony Bourdain and his career as a chef, writer and host, revered and renowned for his authentic approach to food, culture and travel.A documentary about Anthony Bourdain and his career as a chef, writer and host, revered and renowned for his authentic approach to food, culture and travel.
I saw the way he talked to people, all people and studied how he listened, how he asked questions, how he made sure people knew they were actually heard. Watched how language barriers were leapt over, cultural differences were celebrated and how food and drink were a catalyst for love, honesty and for a sense of community.
I grew up in poverty yet following Anthony, to all corners of the world and seeing real places with real history, meeting folks with real stories, who came from and lived in conditions that made my shabby duplex look like the Ritz Carlton. It was transformative. It was escapism yet absolutely grounded in the real world.
I'd read his books and be drawn to a truly unique voice. I'd fall under a spell driven by a deeply compulsive, page turning, "I can't put this down" frenzy. I'd never read stories more relatable yet fantastical, hilarious, sad, and positively sobering. Critically important, emotional lessons for the writer, filmmaker, chef, and person I knew I was destined to become.
I read Kitchen Confidential and got a job as a dishwasher that same summer, then once I had a bit of money I'd watch No Reservations or Parts Unknown and before I knew it I was on a plane to China, then Europe, then China again. I even tried to film my own, one man crew, travel show in Jiujiang. The results? Disastrous, but I am still proud of the attempt.
Roadrunner is exactly the film I hoped it would be. The film I needed it to be. It didn't show us some hidden side of Anthony. It didn't make him out to be anything he isn't. That is impossible. Bourdain showed us the realness from day one. No film, book, documentary, podcast, review- anything-can ever change that.
Director Morgan Neville caught my attention with his 2018 documentary about Fred Rogers (Won't You Be My Neighbor?). He just shows the footage, his questions aren't set up with some hidden agenda, he lets the subjects and cast speak for themselves. That's the exact brilliant documentary filmmaking Roadrunner is fueled by.
The best part of Anthony's inner circle? They all have so much to say. The powerful, beautiful, wondrous impact this man's life had on them yet the devastating, painful, frustrating crater-sized hole his death left in them.
Roadrunner covers that. It has to. But it largely celebrates Tony's life. I didn't cry during the film, I got a lump in my throat but was able to stay composed. The interviews and footage are dazzling and engaging. I was too fascinated to cry. Too eager to see more, I came prepared (with six neatly folded kleenex in my pocket) but refused to let my emotions distract me from my viewing experience-then the credits rolled. Left alone in my own head to process what I just saw. Emotion came over me like a crushing wave. I felt lucky to make it to the car, to sit there and let myself feel it.
And that, is good filmmaking.
Bourdain showed me the world, showed us the world with his incredible story telling, sharp wit, sarcasm and humor. He found a way to shrink the globe, while making every place he went to seem as vast and important as any other. It was delicious food, a sense of community and humor that linked the planet, nothing else matters. He showed it was possible and attainable to get there, just buy a ticket. Stop lying to yourself, stop talking about it, stop dreaming about it and just make it happen.
Go see Roadrunner. You deserve it.
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- Jul 16, 2021