TFF14 – Life Itself (2014)
I have been here. I am here. I will be here again.
Directed by: Steve James
Based on memoir by: Roger Ebert
It’s fitting that my first screening at Telluride be Life Itself, the new documentary by Steve James about Roger Ebert. I read Ebert’s memoir not too long ago and it had a deep affect on me. Ebert’s love of life even at the end was profound and life affirming. I’m sure he would hate those words, but they fit a little too well.
Ebert spent a lot of time at the Telluride Film Festival, so I passed on the opportunity to do something else so that I could watch this film among the mountains at the Abel Gance Open Air Theatre in the park.
It was an amazing experience.
Steve James, a director that Ebert championed with his first film, Hoop Dreams, has told the story of Ebert’s life with humor and grace. The film is not just a recreation of the book, but a companion to the book. He interviews people from Ebert’s life while having parts of the book read over pictures and films. There are stories told in the film that weren’t touched on in the book.
One of my favorite things about the film was the depiction of Ebert’s friendship with Gene Siskel. The two men “fought like cats and dogs,” but were brothers to the end. “He’s an asshole, but he’s my asshole,” said Gene about Roger.
But there was such a soft side to Ebert. When he latched on to a director, he latched on for life. He helped Martin Scorsese become the world renowned director that we all love when he reviewed Who’s That Knocking On My Door. The two became friends, but he pulled no punches when he hated The Color Of Money. It wasn’t mean. It was actual disappointment and love.
And when Werner Herzog called Ebert “a wounded soldier of cinema,” I knew that it came from the heart.
Yeah. I loved loved loved this movie. I made the right decision. It made me want to watch more movies, of course. But, more importantly, it made me want to make sure that I never lose touch with anyone important to me.
I’ll see you at the movies.