(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

This seems to be the year for documentaries about celebrity chefs, although Bourdain is also known as a world traveler and author. It is interesting that this film should be released at the same time as WOLFGANG. However, Bourdain has a natural feeling for the obnoxious and while we can compare the two, Bourdain's manner defeats his style.

Bourdain became famous with his memoir, KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL. Then someone suggested "A Cook's Tour", but as a television show rather than just a book. Bourdain's ideas of travel up to this point was from books and movies, not actual travel. When he started traveling, he was very introverted and had difficulty engaging with other people. He seems to have undergone a change when he found himself in Lebanon during the civil war there. His show also changed, and became more about eating weird food.

Bourdain was apparently always difficult to work with. Towards the end of his career (and life) he brought in Asia Argento as director in Hong Kong and also started a personal relationship with her. After this, his attitude changed and he started doing things like insisting on retakes of (often) heart-breaking documentary scenes with directions as to how the people should deliver their (supposedly unscripted) lines. He also fired his long-time cameraman in a dispute between the cameraman and Argento.

Some people are taking his philosophical pronouncements as profound but he barely seems able to apply them to himself, and they often do not seem to say anything of any value in any case. For example, he sees some profundity in how he confronted his heroin addiction. Hey, Anthony, you might have been better off not taking the heroin in the first place. His capacity for self-indulgence was immense. Criticism that has been made is that the Bourdain voice-overs are not always Bourdain, but rather AI-generated voice-overs (of Bourdain's actual words) using real Bourdain clips as input. A more serious criticism might be that the dramatic conclusion (involving a friend defacing a Bourdain mural) was completely staged. The friend had jokingly suggested that Bourdain would not approve of all the murals with his picture, and the filmmakers asked him (six months later) if he would agree to deface a mural specially commissioned by them for that purpose. That this might suggest to people that defacing other people's public artwork is a good idea apparently never occurred to any of them.

Released theatrically 07/16/21; available on various streaming services. Rating: 0 (-4 to +4), or 4/10.

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					Mark R. Leeper
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