Rockstar chef, distinguished author, travel correspondent and reluctant celebrity Anthony Bourdain is (funnily enough) the focus of Roadrunner : A Film About Anthony Bourdain. We take a look at the film and the man himself.
Tony Bourdain rose to fame as the author of Kitchen Confidential, a rock n roll memoir of a chef and required reading for anyone who has ever worked in a kitchen. It charts the highs and lows of navigating the culinary field and food service industry in a warts and all style.
Bourdain went on to author a series of bestselling books and host his own brand of travel foodie shows, most notably Parts Unknown.
Roadrunner chronicles an incredibly detailed look at the man and his life. The documentary charts his rise to fame and features rarely seen footage of the man waxing lyrical on anything from ordering fish to heroin addiction.
Being critical of Roadrunner, my main criticism is that the pacing halts in the middle. The opening 30 minutes are lightning paced and utilises many fast cuts and wham-bam editing. It’s all very punk. But this energy is lost and only seems to return for the final 30 minutes.
There are obvious places for calm and serenity, reflection and respect (which we’ll get to) but outside of that the middle of Roadrunner gets bogged down in behind-the-scenes footage. Admittedly being a fan this is of interest but it does stall the film somewhat.
The documentary shows these glimpses unashamedly and casts events in a stark light (such as when the crew were filming in Lebennon during a conflict bombing and Bourdain requested the network don’t use the footage).
As a fan, what i loved about this one was watching Bourdain evolve over time. As eaters of content we like to think that our heroes and influences are fully formed, flawless and infallible. Bourdain, for all his deep and dark flaws took a journey in his life which is clearly mapped on screen in Roadrunner.
He wasn’t always the man we grew to know (from afar, through his work and not at all personally), in fact for most of his life it seemed like he was still developing that iteration. The man himself would relent that he was constantly searching for the next thing to get excited about. This really comes across here.
The discussion about hope with some asylum seekers in the Hong Kong portion of the film is utterly heartbreaking to watch.
The film got into hot water when it was revealed the filmmakers used AI to recreate Tony’s voice for one segment. Admittedly the AI voice was used to recite an actual quote by Bourdain. In the grand scheme of the film it is very inconsequential but it seems like something Bourdain himself would have been fundamentally opposed to.
The film ends, not abruptly but with a sense of non-completion. It’s hard to wrap up the story of someones life when that life is ended in a similar fashion. In that sense the ending is very poignant.
There’s a palpable feeling of anger, resentment and confusion that surrounds the end of the film, much like the environment created when any life is ended prematurely. It’s up to those who live on to pick up the pieces.
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It’s been said that Bourdain believed that his younger self, that held such rigid values, would have hated the man he became. At least that’s what some of the commentary surrounding his reasons for self-termination have been linked to.
It has been reported by those close to him that Tony felt like a fraud, the irony of course being that he was anything but that. There was no one like Bourdain and there will never be anyone like him.
His life was a journey of learning and discovery of constant growth, movement and change fueled by curiosity. A wildly personal man blessed with an amiable personality and a knack for distilling and communicating information.
The main takeaway is that Roadrunner captures this and treats it with the utmost respect. Give it a watch.
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