Life Itself

Thanks to a helpful Facebook post by Chaz Ebert, I learned that the Roger Ebert documentary Life Itself is now playing in Scottsdale (Shea).

Unsurprisingly, I enjoyed the documentary enormously and I hope that other people see it. I think it may be worth noting, though, that, aside from being equal parts funny and moving, the film also takes an unflinching look at the illness that took Ebert’s life.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why it was so important to Ebert that he not hide his illness, not because I find it difficult to see him in such discomfort (I do, of course), but because of one review of his I have long found frustrating.

That would be his critical review of The Elephant Man (a movie that reduces me to a blubbering mound of flesh and mucus every time I watch it): “The film’s philosophy is this shallow: (1)Wow, the Elephant Man sure looked hideous, and (2)gosh, isn’t it wonderful how he kept on in spite of everything? This last is in spite of a real possibility that John Merrick’s death at twenty-seven might have been suicide.”*
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