It is strange how you end up with memories of someone you’ve had no personal connection to. In 2000 a new Gujarati column about English movies was in the offing. As basic research I wanted to read movie critics from around the world. mrqe.com at that time introduced me to Roger Ebert. I was excited. Leonard Maltin’s movie guides and Pauline Kael‘s books were already in the house thanks to Dad, but that was not enough. I had also started gathering that movie critics are not revered enough. Every reader seems to think that they have the measure of how art of criticism works. And still this man has won a Pulitzer for his movie criticism.
But somehow what Roger Ebert wrote never felt like movie criticism. It wasn’t his opinions on movies, but his perspective to life and his amazing wit that always came through. I was pretty lost when I first arrived in Stuttgart, at Corso Kino, a small English movie theater, they had displayed a printed movie review of the Irish musical Once, without the source or name of the critic in December 2007. That review moved me. I murmured to myself, it has to be him. I came home and Googled his review, it was him. It was like a familiar wave of someone I knew.
Ironically that was also the year when he was battling for getting his voice back.
Since he took on to Twitter, his voice had taken a different meaning all together. I was chicken enough never to directly communicate with him. It is surprising how gradually his persona unfolded as internet enveloped our lives further. Roger Ebert was everywhere. I can’t imagine my Twitter timeline without him.
After almost every English movie I watch, I come back and look for his review, to see if we are in sync or not. What he thought about movies mattered to me so much that I often end up thinking about real life situation and stories and wonder how would Ebert analyse this.
His last write up ‘A Leave of Presence‘ from just 2 days back did feel ominous. His achievements are many, and many obits in the media will cover almost every part of his life and work. He said every great film should seem new every time you see it. And that is true of a lot of his writing too, movie criticism or not. To me, I feel like I’ve lost a lighthouse that was always out somewhere in the world, helping me understand movies, stories, life…