Anthony Bourdain is best remembered as a heartwarming retrospective of a great adventurer. Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain Takes an intimate look at a complex person. The award-winning documentary Morgan Neville explores his life from meteorite stardom to the shocking 2018 suicide in provincial France. Bourdain’s friends, colleagues, production team, and second wife, Ottavia Busia, open up about their tragic loss. But it is Bourdain’s own haunting words that best illuminate his hopes, dreams and struggles. He experienced the world at large. It was not enough to assuage his personal doubts.
roadrunner starts in 1999 Anthony Bourdain At forty-three as executive chef of the French brasserie Les Halles in New York City. A recovering cocaine and heroin addict that started in the kitchen as a dishwasher, Bourdain was perennial in financial trouble. The owner of Les Halles, Philippe Lajaunie, remarks how Bourdain always had difficulty paying the bills. But he had a strong relationship with his wife, Nancy Putkowski, and enjoyed writing gambling essays with his closest friends. These exuberant discourses stunned Bourdain in a book deal. “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly” was an instant bestseller that catapulted Anthony Bourdain into the limelight. He was soon on book tours, The Today Show, and even Oprah Winfrey.
The film introduced his agent, Kim Witherspoon, then Lydia Tenaglia and Christopher Collins, the married founders of Zero Point Zero Productions, which filmed Anthony Bourdain from the start. It is fascinating to watch her in her early debut on television. Tenaglia was stunned by Bourdain’s shame. He was awkward and safe on camera. When he booked his first series for the Travel Channel, he learned that Bourdain had never left the country. He only read about distant countries and peoples. Anthony Bourdain’s early footage shows the concerted effort he’s put into his craft. He was not a natural, but he learned to express himself on screen through extensive written preparation.
Anthony Bourdain became a household name with the success of “A Cook’s Tour” in 2002. The next decade was a whirlwind of fame, fortune and extensive travel. The most significant was his love affair and marriage with Italian martial arts expert, Ottavia Buscia. He surprised his brother, producers and close friends by becoming a father. Their daughter, Ariane, was born in 2007. The film contains unseen footage of Borden trying his best to be a father. Cooking was his association with family life. But Bourdain spent two and a half hundred days a year filming his variety shows. He was largely absent from his family. This separation took an inevitable toll.
Chef David Chang, Eric Ripert, artist David Chow and musician Josh Homme were Anthony Bourdain’s beloved confidants at this stage of his life. They discuss a man changed by the journey. His television series changed from a culinary art form to a lifestyle focus. After disturbing shootings in Lebanon and Haiti, Bourdain felt there was a need for journalism to show real people in those countries often used by Western media. Footage from Libya, Congo and Iran depicts Anthony Bourdain at his most introspective. This soul-searching, along with his recent divorce, marked a change in his personality.
Lydia Tenaglia, her longtime director and production assistants, had major issues with Asia Argentina. Bourdain was smoked by the Italian actress. He had a frantic focus that focused on his interests. Asia Argentina became an integral part of their globally popular CNN show, “Parts Unknown”. She became public as part of the growing Me Too movement following her rape by Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. Bourdain, who had largely stayed away from social commentary, followed Weinstein with a firebrand. There was a reason she got the Celebre, but it was born entirely out of her obsession with Argentina. The film is direct in this regard. The footage of the Zero Point Zero team showing their hatred of Argentina’s presence is quite evident.
roadrunnerThe last act of will shed your tears. It’s hard to watch the people who work for, know and love Anthony Bourdain as he grapples with his suicide. Eric Ripert, who was filming with Bourdain in France at the time of his death, declined to talk about it, others weeping openly. He had a daughter who loved and needed him. He couldn’t understand how he could leave her behind. David Cho, in a particularly disturbing interview, talks about his crushing sadness and anger over the glorification of Bourdain’s suicide. Ottavia Busia, in her final public remarks, wonders what she could have done differently.
Anthony Bourdain talks candidly about his early embrace of the Rockstar ethos throughout the film. He rebelled against a good upbringing and became a drug addict. He thought you couldn’t really be calm without suffering. In his most touching vignette, he admits that his life was great, and he was lucky to be loved. Depression is a dark cloud that blocks hope. It is sad to think that he felt so lonely in his last moments.
Support is available 24 hours a day at the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, (800) 273-8255. If you are feeling down and lonely please call. Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain Produced by CNN Films, Tremolo Productions, HBO Max and Zero Point Zero. It will be released theatrically on July 16 by Focus Features.
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