Anthony Bourdain's Ethnographic Style
The recent passing of famed food-critic, Anthony Bourdain, has brought to light many of his contributions to the cultural landscape. Best known for bold statements and introducing the western world to the “unknown,” Bourdain was loved by chefs and foodies alike. His taste levels were trusted, and loyal followers took recommendations to heart. With many articles detailing Bourdain’s inspirations, we’re granted access into various layers of his complex creative mind. One lesser-known area of interest being explored is his love and connection to movies and cinema. It only makes sense that the ethnographic approach found in his TV series would be inspired by great film.
Vanity Fair reports, “…movies—as Bourdain himself reminded us in books, television shows, films, and interviews over the course of his career—helped spark that desire. Before he ever visited San Francisco, he lived it in movies—The Asphalt Jungle, Bullitt, Dirty Harry. Before he visited Japan for the first time, he learned it through Kurosawa, Sonny Chiba, Gidrah versus Mecha Godzilla. Contemporary England was Trainspotting. America was Easy Rider.” These films allowed Bourdain to get a sense of a place before entering and fully immersing himself. The article then goes on to explain how Bourdain tried to live out his favourite films in the real world – he wanted to emulate everything he saw.
Indiewire compares Bourdain to ethnographic filmmaker Jean Rouch, and states, “Both men positioned their cameras around faces we often don’t see represented in mainstream media, then provided space for their subjects to drive the narrative.
The first episode of the current “No Reservations” season is an astonishing documentary investigation into the lives of working-class people in West Virginia. Bourdain positions himself as the clueless cosmopolitan in Trumpland — “the existential enemy” — only to find himself so welcomed in a community of coal miners and football lovers that he fits right in.” This desire to become part of the audience you’re reaching is possibly the single most reason for his success and ability to connect with almost everyone.