Anthony Bourdain on Obama, Mussolini, and the Films That Inspired the New Season of Parts Unknown

by | September 23, 2016 | Comments


The exemplary journalism Anthony Bourdain delivers in his CNN series Parts Unknown may not make the headlines quite like his takedown of pumpkin spice lattes does, but it does rack up Emmys — specifically four consecutive wins for Outstanding Informational Series or Special.

From his much-publicized sit-down in Hanoi with President Barack Obama in the season 8 premiere to a fascist-themed tour of Rome, the traveler and foodie mixes art and politics in both the locales the show visits and the way the episodes are constructed.

“We’re pushing ourselves to outdo what we did last week,” Bourdain told Rotten Tomatoes. Over the past seven seasons, the show has been under bomb fire in Beirut, security breaches in Libya, and threatened with imprisonment in the “not so Democratic Republic” of Congo. This season alone will take viewers to four continents and six countries, all of which seem hand-picked to reflect the current world climate.

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown 2016 Creative Arts Emmy Awards - Day 2 - Press Room (FilmMagic)

But can anything top sitting down with Obama at a casual noodle joint in Vietnam? Bourdain said he was surprised at how low key the President was during their brief time together. The day after their meal, the President and Bourdain spent some time traveling near Hanoi.

“We met at a working-class area…on the outskirts of Hanoi…in a driving rainstorm under a hunk of corrugated tin, basically like a little stand where there was an old woman sort of dozing at her stand where she sold gum and cigarettes. She had no idea, I mean no clue that the President of the United States was going to pull up and join me,” Bourdain recalls of filming the first episode of the season. “I think what shocked me was how at ease he was at the time, how comfortable he was. I think he was happy to be in Vietnam as a state visit but also to just be able to sit down and eat some noodles and drink a beer.”

POTUS —  he’s just like us…if we hopped on Air Force One and ate noodles with Anthony Bourdain.

The Rome show — the last of the season — will air after we know the outcome of this year’s presidential election, but the political overtones may have influenced the choices of the Parts Unknown team, which chose to highlight the influence of 20th century fascist Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

“We shot nothing that wasn’t filmed during the Mussolini era and the post-fascist era. It’s all sort of modern Rome — the Rome most Romans live in actually. I thought it was a good time to show Mussolini and his works,” Bourdain said of his personal favorite episode of the upcoming season.

How the Rome episode was shot makes it stand apart, Bourdain said.

“We watch a lot of films for inspiration, and we take our cues from those, the cinematography that we like.” For Rome, he added “we were looking at The Conformist and the early work of [Italian cinematographer] Vittorio Storaro.”

The use of film themes plays a role throughout the new season, Bourdain said, citing Robert Altman’s masterpiece Nashville for that city’s spotlight and Wang Kar-wai’s Happy Together as an inspiration for the cinematography and the lighting in the Buenos Aires episode.

Many of the countries Bourdain visits this season might be interpreted as repeats — it’s his fourth trip to Vietnam and the third to Japan. But with these multiple trips, Bourdain says he gets a chance to see old friends and observe how places have changed.

In China, he recalled, “Chengdu has changed tremendously…I mean there are just buildings, hundreds of thousands of new apartments as far as the eye can see, cranes and new buildings, luxury car dealers everywhere. Just the smell of money.”

And also, unexpectedly perhaps, Los Angeles: “Some places, like Los Angeles, we’re going to look for a completely new angle and completely new and different group of people.”

In Japan, the show will follow superstar New York chef Masa Takayama’s journey from a “dead end” fishing community to Tokyo and then New York.

And expect some typical Bourdain hazing as a side dish to the politics this season. He took his friend, Chef Eric Ripert, to China. Ripert was “very apprehensive and was in no way prepared for the level of heat in Sichuanese food — or the amount of drinking he would be required to do in a formal banquet situation with the Chinese.”

Antics surely ensue.

Season 8 of Parts Unknown premieres on CNN Sunday, Sept. 25 at 9 p.m. ET/PT

Tag Cloud

Apple TV Plus Disney Plus Paramount Network child's play biography criterion Creative Arts Emmys Western Superheroe Lifetime Christmas movies spain Opinion Emmy Nominations FOX 2017 Netflix Christmas movies social media blaxploitation war strong female leads Marathons Valentine's Day toy story Walt Disney Pictures crime drama Hear Us Out Avengers Hallmark Christmas movies Lifetime concert sequel Anna Paquin DC streaming service spinoff binge WGN ABC Family Comedy OneApp elevated horror Tomatazos History revenge Trailer Family Amazon Prime Video Pet Sematary Vudu cancelled television Disney GIFs Horror robots sports Video Games ghosts christmas movies TNT Pop TV politics Dark Horse Comics Freeform Hulu Emmys doctor who medical drama Fall TV finale Super Bowl crime Sci-Fi science fiction mission: impossible ITV Turner Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt foreign thriller serial killer TV Land series Masterpiece MCU Reality Competition Awards Tour Reality Superheroes Travel Channel Disney streaming service anthology Film Festival IFC Films BBC America Food Network Amazon The Walking Dead LGBT PBS comics parents YA supernatural asian-american discovery Marvel American Society of Cinematographers police drama 2016 Captain marvel justice league chucky BET streaming Columbia Pictures latino spider-man New York Comic Con Sundance Nominations rotten movies we love TBS Spectrum Originals Netflix Holiday Infographic E! animated Premiere Dates free movies OWN children's TV Trivia Comic Book Star Trek die hard IFC 4/20 travel award winner Syfy Discovery Channel zombies CNN GLAAD Lucasfilm Character Guide best richard e. Grant indie boxoffice Ellie Kemper El Rey SundanceTV Women's History Month TV renewals Sony Pictures DirecTV Best and Worst The Purge BBC Set visit dceu Mary poppins hist Tarantino slashers Box Office 007 TCA VICE Certified Fresh WarnerMedia docudrama Pirates AMC FXX scary movies Rocketman 2015 composers jamie lee curtis A&E independent 24 frames Action harry potter period drama game show Hallmark psychological thriller ABC Shudder dragons DC Comics President Mystery golden globes See It Skip It Amazon Prime Kids & Family batman talk show The Witch TCA 2017 Brie Larson dogs Film space FX Paramount reboot Mindy Kaling Television Academy Black Mirror San Diego Comic-Con Esquire tv talk Fantasy versus 2020 A24 TruTV Black History Month cars comiccon sag awards based on movie Classic Film Amazon Studios MSNBC 45 cancelled TV series Thanksgiving Cosplay green book natural history renewed TV shows Star Wars miniseries 21st Century Fox CBS Winners Song of Ice and Fire Ovation dc Christmas Stephen King cooking Oscars Spike canceled TV shows Binge Guide Elton John screen actors guild E3 Sundance Now Crunchyroll dramedy Starz HBO APB Bravo Teen Apple Podcast FX on Hulu festivals YouTube Premium The CW Biopics theme song Interview canceled screenings zero dark thirty 2018 Warner Bros. psycho casting DGA MTV Chernobyl Nat Geo book DC Universe romance blockbuster VH1 historical drama cartoon Musical USA Crackle Shondaland adventure a nightmare on elm street adaptation Country NBC Marvel Television south america Rock cops Ghostbusters HBO Max Tumblr Academy Awards Quiz Disney Channel Fox News Heroines Cannes what to watch Cartoon Network aliens cults Awards Endgame Photos Turner Classic Movies television First Reviews Lionsgate Calendar Year in Review comedies ratings ESPN anime Holidays Britbox movies Arrowverse sitcom cats facebook Sundance TV hispanic CW Seed breaking bad Pixar CMT name the review disaster Polls and Games YouTube Red unscripted universal monsters X-Men TIFF Peacock mockumentary SDCC franchise PaleyFest Summer Animation quibi werewolf RT History technology spy thriller halloween Musicals Universal political drama Spring TV Mudbound Schedule Comedy Central TV NYCC Marvel Studios Apple TV+ dark National Geographic Music Rom-Com zombie The Arrangement game of thrones Acorn TV SXSW Winter TV Election Watching Series GoT vampires Mary Tyler Moore crime thriller YouTube Martial Arts Drama First Look Tubi USA Network stand-up comedy Comics on TV Epix documentary cancelled TV shows Mary Poppins Returns nature witnail mutant TCM TLC true crime movie transformers teaser RT21 reviews directors crossover TCA Winter 2020 Countdown Rocky Pop Disney+ Disney Plus LGBTQ 2019 singing competition stoner spanish language Writers Guild of America CBS All Access Adult Swim romantic comedy Nickelodeon diversity Logo Pride Month Red Carpet Sneak Peek joker cinemax Funimation kids video cancelled Toys Trophy Talk Grammys Extras Baby Yoda comic Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 71st Emmy Awards 20th Century Fox Showtime