I have written a few times before on here about Anthony Bourdain’s life and his work. He was a line cook until he got really lucky and wrote his way to the top of the news, entertainment, travel, and culinary circles. I have called his writing “poetry with a serrated edge.” As I became more and more familiar with his work both in television and print, I quickly realized that his artistic voice was one of the most intelligent I had ever heard. I watched and read everything he was in. I watched and read what he had mentioned to be his inspirations. I even managed to secure an autographed copy of his last cookbook before his death. Needless to say, I’m a big fan.
When I learned about the inevitable documentary that I was certain would be made about his life after his death, I was excited but also afraid. I was afraid of one of my literary heroes being portrayed not as a monster, but as a man who lived a life of unspeakable pain with no relief in sight. During the two-hour run time of the Morgan Neville documentary, my conclusion was simple. Anthony Bourdain was a genius who had traveled over 660,000 miles (the equivalent of circumventing the globe twenty-six times) in search for purpose.
He was a man who would become obsessed with pretty much anything and everything that held his attention. He was a loving father even though he traveled over 200 days a year. He was painfully shy and awkward. He was an enigma; and every one of his fellow friends, chefs, journalists, family members and film crew shared their memories in a way that would be considered as unapologetic as Bourdain himself.
I recently came across somewhat of a controversy that the director used AI (Artificial Intelligence) to digitally recreated his voice for three lines in the film as part of the VoiceOver narration. I can see and understand why this can be seen as downright creepy and unethical. However, the lines that were digitally created were from emails that he had written to colleagues and friends. Again, I can understand the questionable judgement here on the side of the director, but at least he didn’t (as far as I know) digitally put words in the mouth of a ghost that were never there before.
Whether you’re familiar with Anthony Bourdain or not, I would highly recommend this documentary as a very intimate look inside the life of one of the most unique and unabashed people of the last twenty years.