in 2016, Anthony Bourdain sat back in a leather coach to talk to a therapist in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was the first time he went to a session since his parents sent him to a session after they caught him on drugs as a teenager. He put on his reading glasses and went through a list he called “all my ailments and problems.”
“I tend to have a kind of manic personality,” he told the therapist, describing how things could be going well for him, and then he could change abruptly at random. “Then, suddenly, a little thing just kinda puts me off.”
The scene is a pivotal point in “Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain,” which hits theaters July 16.
Using archival footage and interviews with his closest friends and colleagues, documentary filmmaker Morgan Neville looks at how Mr. Bourdain became a global icon. But the film also explores what may have contributed to its death by suicide in June 2018 at age 61.
“The fact is, his life was always dark,” Neville said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. “What I felt like I had to do was figure out how to reconcile these two sides of Tony. Because I think when he died, the overwhelming thought I heard from people was, ‘How the hell can someone like Anthony Bourdain commit suicide?’ Because he’s had such a great life.”
Neville said he wanted viewers to see the discussions that could have contributed to Mr Bourdain’s death, including how his virtues were as well as his vulnerabilities.
“The same ingredients were always there,” Mr. Neville said. “In many ways his strengths were also his weaknesses. His deep romance, his wanderlust, his deep curiosity and seeking were his strengths, but also things that really kept him unrooted and unable to sit back and enjoy things to enjoy.”
The film begins in 1999 and continues its career as it published its first bestseller, “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly.” It shows how he found his voice and confidence while filming the television series “A Cook’s Tour”, “No Reservations” and “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown”, where he tackled food and politics and promoted the voices of marginalized people.
“But if you just look at what’s on the news, you might miss a bigger picture,” Bourdain said in the documentary.
mr. Bourdain was such a memoir that Mr. Neville said this intimate glimpse into the chef’s life would never have been possible if he were alive.
“He always made a movie about himself,” Mr. Neville said. “It was only because he died that the film was ever made.”
Throughout the film, Mr. Bourdain’s friends and colleagues struggle with what could have led to his death. But Mr. Neville never points to one thing; he even said he didn’t want the film to delve deeper into Mr Bourdain’s death than he already did. This played into the decision of Mr. Neville to Mr. Not to ask Bourdain’s last girlfriend, Asia Argentina, an Italian actress and director who has been central to the #MeToo movement, to be interviewed for the documentary.
The film delves into Mr. Bourdain with drugs, and how Mr. Bourdain handled his romantic relationships, including with his first wife, Nancy Putkosi, and his second wife, Ottavia Busia, with whom he shared a daughter. When they broke up, he was untethered again.
About that time, Mr. Bourdain wrote to his friend, the artist David Choe, “David, this is a silly thing to ask, but I’m curious,” describing his life with an expletive, “You are successful, and I am successful.” , and I wonder: are you happy?”
In the film, the email is read in the voice of Mr. Bourdain, which was created with artificial intelligence technology, according to The New Yorker.
“I know how hard it must have been for him to even write that email,” Mr. Choe said in the documentary, “to reach out to someone and say, ‘Hey man, I’m not doing well.’ “
One of the film’s most powerful scenes takes place in a restaurant, where Mr. Bourdain sits opposite musician Iggy Pop, and he asks him a curious question, “What excites you?”
Iggy Pop replies, “It’s really embarrassing, but being loved and appreciating the people who give it to me.”
The film ends with Mr Bourdain’s relationship with Ms Argento and his involvement in the #MeToo movement. During his stay in France, just before his death, he was filming with his friend Eric Ripert, the chef of Le Bernardin in New York City. A gossip magazine had released pictures of Ms. Argento with another man.
Friends interviewed for the film theorized about its final moments.
“We try so hard to understand it because we think if we can understand it, we would be okay with it,” Karen Rinaldi, a book publisher and one of Mr Bourdain’s friends, said in the documentary, “and the fact is, no. I don’t think we’re getting to know each other. That’s tough.”
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