Review: Doc explores Anthony Bourdain’s own ‘parts unknown’ | Entertainment
Neville dispenses quickly with the early stuff — Bourdain dropping out of college, washing dishes in Cape Cod — even his years as chef at Manhattan’s Brasserie Les Halles. It really starts at age 44, when “Kitchen Confidential,” his wickedly funny memoir about the underbelly of the restaurant world, catapults him into stardom and a life as a globetrotting raconteur bold enough to swallow a still-beating cobra heart or a sheep’s testicle.
The transformation is dizzying: People are shouting to Bourdain in the streets. He’s sitting down with Letterman, and with Oprah. They’re saying Brad Pitt wants to play him. “It was like he died and was reborn,” says his brother, Chris Bourdain.
In footage from his various shows, which culminated with “Parts Unknown” on CNN, we accompany Bourdain to an idyllic lunch in Provence with chef-buddy Eric Ripert, or to Vietnam, where he guzzles that cobra heart. Or to Haiti, where an episode on local cuisine leads to a chaotic scene of hungry youths seeking food. In a 2006 episode of “No Reservations” shot in Beirut, violence flares up between Israel and Hezbollah, and the crew is left to lounge by a pool for days while conflict rages. “I had begun to believe the dinner table was the great leveler,” Bourdain says. “Now I’m not so sure.”
A casualty of Bourdain’s outsized fame is his first marriage. Nancy Putkoski doesn’t speak to Neville, but Bourdain’s second wife does — Ottavia Busia, with whom he shared a daughter. Her tearful regret at not having kept a closer eye on him once their marriage was over is one of the more moving moments of the film, as is the frank commentary — loving, sad and angry all at once — from celebrity chef David Chang. The tears flow copiously in this film, a credit to Neville’s vibrant filmmaking. Chang also has one of the catchiest lines about his friend: “It was almost never about food. It was about Tony learning to be a better person.”