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Anatomy of a suicide: Anthony Bourdain’s charismatic, sad life

Anatomy of a suicide: Anthony Bourdain’s charismatic, sad life

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Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain

Both at The Myrna Loy


Grade: A-

I Carry You With Me


 Grace: B+

The Myrna Loy is showing two fine films: One is a sad tale of the life and death of Anthony Bourdain. The other mixes sadness with joy in telling a true story of gay romance between two Mexican men.

“Roadrunner: A film about Anthony Bourdain” starts with Bourdain talking about death and ends with his suicide at age 61, including a posting by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255.

The documentary is framed as a question: Why did Bourdain take his own life, and what can we learn from his sad journey to help others?

Every generation has its free spirits, who write their own rules, live recklessly and too often self-destruct. Henry Miller, Charles Bukowski, Hunter Thompson were all pied pipers whose unconventional lives inspired others while taking a toll on themselves.

Bourdain was a chef who at 43 became a cult hero, thanks to his good looks, his self-effacing honesty and his wildly popular book that offered “a behind-the-scenes look at restaurant kitchens.” That book launched TV series (“No Reservations,” “Parts Unknown,” et al), which found a loyal audience.

“Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly” became an international best seller.

“It’s about some of the scariest kitchens in America,” wrote one cook who keeps his copy in the back seat to browse between his shifts. “It’s written in the coarse language of a professional kitchen which adds color and authenticity.”

Bourdain advised people to “be travelers, not tourists.”

“He smoked, ate and drank his way around the world,” said one friend. “He was always looking for cliffs to jump off of.”

Bourdain dove headlong into intense relationships, some ending as abruptly as they began. He interviewed a gorgeous Italian star, and seemed to fall in love on camera.

The documentary portrays Bourdain as a life-loving free-wheeling spirt who slowly descended into a very dark place. He became cynical about the world and about his life.

The poverty and pain in Africa seemed to knock the hope out of him. He wrote about “sitting by a pool and watching a war.”

He talked obliquely about ending his life, saying “nothing lasts forever…I only have a few seconds of happiness, here and there.”

The chilling admission that “I’m not doing well” came when his “highs were very high, and lows very low.”

“He was always searching,” said a friend. “That’s why we loved him.”

In retrospect, the troubling clues were hidden in plain sight. His friends worried, but his suicide was still devastating.

The ending shows friends and fans in tears, each feeling a deep personal loss. When Bourdain walked on city streets, construction workers and lawyers alike would get giddy and shout out to him.

He allowed people to vicariously share a life most could experience no other way except to ride along with Anthony Bourdain as he traveled the world, jumping off cliffs.

We all dream of that. Bourdain lived it.

A side note: The director confessed using AI magic to recreate a couple Bourdain voice-overs. That dubious shortcut is no reason to boycott the film, but it is food for discussion on digital ethics.

“I Carry You with Me” recounts a true gay love story about Mexican chef and a teacher who leave their home country of Mexico to escape homophobia and poverty.

The portrait of their meeting and their love is genuine, touching. One is out the other is not, so they must hide their affection inside a homophobic culture.

Unfortunately, the script becomes almost too complex by setting this love inside an immigration drama that includes crossing the border at night.

Once across, they grieve those left behind – family, friends and even a son.

At the end, the story abruptly skips two decades to rush toward a happy ending, assuring us that they fulfilled their dreams.

Too much story, too little time. But it’s still an insightful split-focus tale of being gay in Mexico and being undocumented in America.

The two men became friends with the director Heidi Ewing, who met them in New York. Making the film was a labor of love that took her nearly a decade.

“I Carry You with Me” opened during Gay Pride celebrations in Helena, reminding us all that the struggle for LGBTQ+ acceptance is global – and that we must all be vigilant because the battle is far from won.


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