TV Party Tonight! #101

TV Party Tonight! #101

Tuesday, 26 October 2021

A Film About Anthony Bourdain

I never knew Anthony Bourdain as a chef, only as a traveler/food documentarian. And a trusted one at that. I love food more than I care to admit, and every time we’re traveling somewhere, nationally or abroad, my wife and I make sure to watch any episodes Anthony Bourdain might have taped in the area. Of course, he can’t hit up every spot, but we’ve never been disappointed by his recommendations. The man has an appreciation for simple food and is comfortable enough to call out bullshit when he sees it, like foam or truffle oil. I trust the guy, his keen sense of taste, and how he understood that when we partake in a country’s food, a lot of times, what seems exotic to us is just a people figuring out how to make stuff edible in times of scarcity.What I never trusted was Anthony Bourdain’s bad-boy reputation. Sure, I appreciate a guy who enjoys punk rock and debauchery, but his tastes are textbook definitions of the culture. Punk rock? That’s Iggy Pop and the Stooges for Bourdain. Equally obvious are vices: sex and drugs. Nothing specific there, just the idea of sex and drugs. The man devoted whole episodes to the mystique of the beat poets, William Burroughs, and Heart of Darkness. And let me tell you, beware of anyone who admires

Burroughs.Bourdain was obviously a complicated figure and his death quite shocking, which is why the new documentary Roadrunner was so anticipated. I had heard all the controversy going in so let’s just address those now. First, is the fact that the director supposedly added dialogue of Bourdain’s with AI to make it sound like he spoke them. This isn’t exactly true as it’s a sentence in one of his emails to one of the producers. So, Bourdain did author that sentence. Why he didn’t just have the producer read it out loud is baffling. Second is the exclusion of Asia Argento in the whole documentary. Argento was only part of Bourdain’s life for a brief period and there’s speculation about whether the people interviewed in Roadrunner would have been comfortable having her included, since she doesn’t exactly come across in the best way. The director himself says that after considering it, it would have opened up a can worms of he-said-she-said that would have spiraled the movie out of control. OK, now that’s settled. How is Roadrunner? Well, it’s a very enjoyable documentary, but a little too long, and doesn’t quite hit the mark.

We start off with Bourdain’s newfound fame after releasing Kitchen Confidential, and his decision to make a TV show about global cuisine. What starts off as a failure, starts getting legs after the producers realize that Bourdain should be the more the highlight of these travels, as his personality is the perfect glue to piece these adventures together. Bourdain is a troubled but kind and charismatic person and he’s both funny and persuasive with his arguments. But we also find out that Bourdain was someone who was a bit flighty and unsure of what he should be doing with his life, always searching for something more and thinking the grass is greener on the other side. He feels cursed for the fame and lack of privacy that comes with his show, but given a chance out, he chooses to stay. He’s afraid of being a nobody. When his marriage ended Bourdain became infatuated with his new girlfriend Asia Argento, and we all know how that ends when the other party doesn’t exactly reciprocate in the same way. The ending is handled a bit superficially as the catharsis we’re expected to reach is supposed to come from one of Bourdain’s friends defacing a mural made in his honor. Because, fame killed Bourdain and we’re undoing it here (get it? who knows?). So yes, the rise of the man is interesting, the decline is too, the end is shoddy at best.

Now for this DVD which is as barebones as can be. The Roadrunner DVD has the movie, and no bonus features. No extra interviews, or features. Nothing. Even the cover stays on awkwardly in the case. Really, guys? This is how you treat your subject? The film is a commercial success. Work on the packaging!

If you’re a fan of the man, this documentary is a must. You’ll learn a lot about him, and even things you didn’t care to find out. You’re see all the wonderful people who surrounded him in his life, and some of the not-so-great ones as well. This is a good story, but a little unsatisfying.

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