Life Itself



I have already written on this website what Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel meant to me as a film lover from an early age growing up ( I miss Siskel and Ebert ), but this new documentary film, taken from Roger’s biography, sheds new light on so many things about this fascinating and truly brave genuine man. This is a must see for anybody who loves film. It was very apparent at an early age, that Roger Joseph Ebert was a bright fellow who had a gift for writing. This documentary covers with  detail, the early years of Ebert, and truly what great promise he had as a leader and master of the pen, starting in high school. He had things to say, and boy did he. Directed by the documentary filmmaker : (Steve James) whose early film (Hoop Dreams), was championed by Siskel and Ebert, (Life Itself ) pulls no punches with the illness that slowly and eventually takes Roger from this world ; he wouldn’t have it any way. Nor does it shy away from his early years of heavy drinking and his choice of dates, which has old friends from his bar days where he held court, telling wonderful stories about this man who would ultimately become one of the most powerful film critics in the world. It is fascinating to see the other sides of him and also of Gene, told with wonderful insight by his wife: (Marlene Iglitzen). They were very much like two brothers constantly antagonizing each other with barbs and bets to one up each other. Both men had rather large egos and the stories, coupled with the outtakes of their show are a hoot to watch. You also see the warm touches, like the fact that Gene’s daughters were the flower girls at Roger and Chaz’s wedding. It is apparent after Gene’s death, that Roger missed his friend dearly.

Chaz, Roger’s wife and rock, is a joy to watch and you will understand as you hear the stories and see the footage, why he loved her and her family so much. They married when he was fifty. Life can really begin at any age.

The filmmakers who testify to Roger and his impact on movies is also fascinating, as Scorsese and Werner Herzog provide commentary as to what Roger meant for the progress of the medium, and how he championed smaller films. Scorsese has a moment and chokes up, when he talks about how Roger and Gene helped pull him out of the abyss when he was at an end. He also tells about how Roger’s poor review of (The Color of Money) hurt him at first, and then inspired him to do better. This is good stuff. These two men were the real deal when it came to what their true passion was and how much they cared.

Roger’s illness in the film and how he struggled and fought bravely moving forward with his lovely wife, are hard to watch at times. He wanted no part of shutting filming down when his bad days became worse. He is a wonder to watch as he spends more and more time in the hospital. Robbed of the ability to eat, drink or speak, Roger found new peace and freedom with his blog. An awaking happened in him that no one could understand unless they traveled down the same road. It is inspiring to watch.

This is a documentary about a man, who loved the medium of filmmaking and had to write and tell you about the ones he cherished and the ones he hated. He struggled with many demons along way, met some great friends, traveled to wonderful places, found the love of his life, and informed and educated so many people about the beauty and wonder of the art of film....not bad Roger.

Thumbs up!


watch the trailer: