Although it had its initial premiere at Sundance, the Steve James-directed documentary Life Itself, about film critic Roger Ebert, has headed off to Cannes and today, we have the first trailer, which features quite a few filmmakers and critics discussing what Ebert meant to the contemporary cinematic culture.
The trailer introduces a film extraordinarily romantic in its view of its subject and the subject of its subject: both Ebert and movies seem to be inextricably linked, as though without one there is not the other. This sort of approach is perfectly legitimate, as it chronicles Ebert’s life in and out of the movies. The film shares the title with Ebert’s memoir, and looks to be a generous examination of the effect that he had on the way we talk about movies and, in his later years, the way we talk about cancer.
I think that we can all agree that Ebert was a serious force in the cinematic landscape – the winner of a Pulitzer Prize, the co-host of an immensely popular show about movies, and certainly one of the most open and constant voices when it came to lauding (or defaming) a film. At the same time, there is something a little hyperbolic, even disingenuous, in the way that this trailer presents its subject matter. Talking heads, including Martin Scorsese and Werner Herzog, abound, as do laudatory statements about how great and influential Ebert was. While I don’t expect a hash job against a beloved and influential critic, I hope that the whole film takes a slightly more critical approach. I think Mr. Ebert would have enjoyed that.
You can watch the trailer for Life Itself below. The film will come to American theatres and arrive on iTunes on July 4.