Renowned Chicago-based film critic Roger Ebert had a lot of battles during his 70 years. He battled alcoholism. He battled cancer. And, to our amusement, he would regularly battle colleague Gene Siskel. All of these battles, and more, will be in the forefront of the upcoming documentary Life Itself based on Ebert’s memoir of the same name. The first trailer was released last week.
For those who haven’t seen, Life Itself already as made its rounds through Cannes, Sundance and Sheffield Doc/Fest and contributed to its universal acclaim. The first trailer shows how director Steve James (Hoop Dreams) combines archived footage of a young Ebert with unparalleled access to his final years, when thyroid cancer took away his lower jaw and ability to speak. James joined Ebert in the emergency room during his recovery, and was still making the movie at his death.
But cancer never stole his ability to write tart, straight-forward but even-handed movie reviews. Ebert continued to write, even taking a “leave of presence,” until his death in April 2013.
Like the trailer and Tomatometer suggests, fellow film critics are giving “two thumbs up” to Life Itself (or they would, if it wasn’t copyrighted). The Hollywood Reporter said it’s a “fulsome appreciation” of Ebert’s life. ReelFilm says the documentary is “fascinating, poignant.” The Playlist calls it “profoundly moving.” It will open in U.S. theaters this summer.
Also, want to see something cool, and kind of eerie? Check out the end of the first paragraph of Ebert’s review of James’ Hoop Dreams:
It takes us, shakes us, and make us think in new ways about the world around us. It gives us the impression of having touched life itself.