As someone who’s been keenly aware of my fallibility and mortality for quite some time now, and who’s long been interested in the study and nurture of my own spirit, I will say there was a clarity to the passing of Anthony Bourdain three summers ago. Not only an untimely and unkind finality, but an unmistakable whiff of assertion as well, as it pertained to the celebrity chef’s departure from this realm, to his own death.
Bourdain came, he saw, he conquered. From his candid sharing of kitchen confidences (his own!) to his decidedly Earthbound journeys into parts unknown, he did that – but he also did that, when he committed suicide at the age of 61.
There once was a man from Manhattan…who was like nobody else, did it like nobody else, and transcended like nobody else. A man who could not stay and who left too many questions. Why he chose to call it isn’t the query 20 Feet from Stardom Academy Award-winning director Morgan Neville sets out to answer with his latest documentary, the heartfelt Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain, but it unsurprisingly looms large over the much-healing proceeding. Death and all his friends shan’t let us forget: he lived.
Throughout Bourdain’s life of joy and success, there was a private darkness, and he took several good looks at the road before him and he forged a path very much his own. He even became a modern-day prophet, who rose from the lowest of his depths to fly high and far as he extolled the virtues and wonders of a world waiting to connect through travel and the sharing of many, many interesting meals. And that is something that cannot be undone or argued, and for that we his audience can and will always be grateful. He walked it, he ate it, he lived it. He lived and he shared that part of his world, and when he couldn’t live anymore, he didn’t say anything at all.
It amazes me how much self-shot/produced footage there can be of forces of nature like Anthony Bourdain. Neville fuses l’archive Bourdain with post-A.B. interviews featuring those that knew him a little closer to his core: his longstanding partners in life and in work. It is through them, their impressions and memories of him, their remembered last graces and slights, that a fuller picture of Anthony Bourdain becomes a little bit clearer. There is sadness and hurt here, but there is also catharsis.
His crew of forever, his ex-wife and his second wife, the mother of his child, that couple that co-produced the lot of his on-camera international travelogues, his much-maligned last girlfriend, they all bore witness and reckoned with Bourdain. He happened to them, in particular. They are his context, his humanity, and this doc is the thing he could not say, the note he did not write. He lived it, it was all there; someone simply had to edit the shit and talk about it.
Life is a collaboration, after all, nobody brought out the best in people like Anthony Bourdain – even this casual viewer can tell you that.
Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain is a testament to the spirit of a man who, for the most part, happened to life. He went without judgement and opened up to the world, and the world responded in kind. And he did what he did. But that was his story, and he told it. And it was sensational. But that was him. Good on Neville for keeping the focus on Bourdain’s command of his ship in the night, one that kept the light burning until the end. Remember that traveling down your own road.
It is a long way, and you are not alone. We’re all just a little ahead, a little behind.
You are not alone right now. Call a friend. Call 1800-273-TALK.