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Anthony Bourdain Lashes Out at ‘Baby Driver’ and Ava DuVernay Comes to Its Defense

The celebrity chef seems to have a problem with Edgar Wright's car chase movie, but he's taking a strange route to expressing it.

Anthony Bourdain

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It was a healthy holiday weekend for Edgar Wright’s “Baby Driver,” which took in close to $40 million over the course of the week. The speedy heist movie is the rare original summer studio movie, and has mostly thrilled audiences and critics alike, echoing the enthusiasm for the lively movie that was first glimpsed at its SXSW Film Festival premiere in March.

The response is a notable triumph for Wright, bringing him back to the spotlight four years after his last feature, “The World’s End,” after which he struggled to enter the Marvel universe with “Ant Man” before leaving the project. Other filmmaker colleagues have spoken up to advocate for “Baby Driver,” including Guillermo Del Toro, who made the case for the movie in an enthusiastic series of tweets last week.

But the social media platform also showcased at least one famous name who had a negative response — globe-trotting chef Anthony Bourdain, who tweeted simply “Fuck BABY DRIVER”on July 4th with no elaboration. When IndieWire reached out for a comment the next day, Bourdain declined to elaborate further on the reaction, and Wright declined to comment. However, Bourdain followed up the tweet one day later with an apparent elaboration, sharing a poster for the Indonesian 2011 action film “The Raid” accompanied by the word, “Quality.”

If we were to follow the digital bread crumbs that Bourdain seems to be laying out, it would appear that he’s drawing a contrast between two forms of action filmmaking — the visceral brutality of the hand-to-hand battle scenes that constitute the essence of “The Raid” and the giddy, music-driven car chases at the heart of “Baby Driver.” They’re both rapidly-paced directorial feats, and it’s certainly possible to enjoy both. Notably, “Baby Driver” is an original concept produced within the confines of the American studio system, which makes its elegant audiovisual approach all the more impressive in contrast to cacophonous blockbuster clichés. “The Raid” was produced far away from clutches of Hollywood, which is currently working on a remake.

See More How Edgar Wright Is Saving the Action Film 

It’s no surprise that Bourdain, whose masculine brand would suggest a greater penchant for tough, bloody movies over jubilant ones laced with upbeat pop songs, prefers “The Raid.” Still, he’s taken a puzzling approach to expressing as much.

This is not the first time Bourdain has voiced his disdain for a movie. Last year, he appeared on Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast to promote his show “Parts Unknown”and lashed out at the documentary “Author: The JT Leroy Story” for including audio that the film’s subject, Laura Alpert, secretly recorded of celebrities while she was posing as a young writer. (These included actress Asia Argento, whom Bourdain is currently dating.)

Bourdain himself has dipped his toes in the film industry, producing the 2017 documentary “Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent.” Meanwhile, viewers of “Parts Unknown”are well aware of the cinematic traditions folded into the show, which changes up its style depending on the various locations that Bourdain visits. On a trip to Buenos Aires, he explicitly references Wong Kar Wai’s “Happy Together” to evoke the city’s sense of loneliness, while a Rome episode was inspired by Pasolini films. Needless to say, Bourdain clearly has strong ideas about film style.

But it’s strange to see someone so keen on subtle approaches to cultural discourse and the culinary arts lashing out in crass terms. The chef seems to be indulging in a kind of reductive flame-throwing activity from the ivory tower of his robust social media following, although the tone is certainly in synch with the tough, no-bullshit attitude he exudes takes on his show. However, his own work would suggest that he’d have something more constructive to say about the movie. After all, “Parts Unknown” is all about the application of slick imagery and music to create an engaging viewer experience, and “Baby Driver” — which features action scenes choreographed to a pre-selected list of songs — uses a similar approach.

For now, the tweet has evoked at least one strong response from the film community, with fellow director Ava DuVernay leaping to Wright’s defense. “You don’t have to like it,”she wrote, “but have some respect for the artists who made it. You’re better than this. Critique doesn’t have to be cruel.”

 

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