Wednesday, 10 February 2016

I've Just Seen: Life Itself (2014)

Life Itself (2014)

Director: Steve James

One cannot really love films without knowing of Roger Ebert. His is arguably the most influential film critic in the world; the only others may be those of the French New Wave, who turned their hand to filmmaking (Truffaut, Godard). Ebert's most significant foray into movie-making was the trashy Beyond the Valley of the Dolls with Russ Meyer, a parodic sequel to Valley of the Dolls (both now cult classics).

James' documentary is an adaptation of Ebert's memoir, and happens to chronicle the last months of Ebert's life, and his death. There is a great poignancy to seeing Ebert in hospital, his body succumbing to various cancers. We see his ability to communicate through typing and gestures, having lost the ability to speak due to throat cancer a decade ago. I was most reminded of Julian Schnabel's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, a film about the human spirit being both trapped by a broken body, yet also transcending these limitations through their mind.

The film is moving and inspiring, showing us a life lived closely with film, and the joy of sharing such love (or otherwise) with others. The pairing of Siskel and Ebert has surely influenced many approches to film reviewing: Australia's own Margaret and David spring to mind. While you may not have agreed with all Ebert's reviews, there is no denying his love of cinema, and his immense talent in writing about films.

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