Belle Vie -- a great doc with charm and heart to spare! - AmNews Curtain Raiser


Sunday, April 3, 2022

Belle Vie -- a great doc with charm and heart to spare!

There is an undeniable charm about director Marcus Mizelle’s documentary Belle Vie which takes us on the journey of how the COVID-19 pandemic destroyed this restaurant. 

The narrator in this hopeful, and sweet world is Vincent Samarco, a French immigrant whom I would describe as courteous, kind, and funny. He knows what he wants and why he wants it and because of this (I think) he wins over the audience with his passionate nature and charming demeanor.

Samarco relocated to Los Angeles, in 2016, with significant experience in French culinary expertise. Couple that with his drive to succeed so it’s no surprise that he wanted to start and build his eating establishment. 

In the beginning, he found a building sandwiched between a McDonald’s and a KFC, clearly an indication that a large group of Americans doesn’t eat healthily. But this didn’t stop his drive and his dream, Belle Vie (The Good Life) opened and it grew, being filled most nights. 

Then COVID-19 hit the world with a mandate to close restaurants which was a gut punch to thousands of people that make their living in this world, including Samarco. Following state rules, Belle Vie was allowed to reopen with takeaway orders and/or outdoor seating but then, restaurants had to reclose! These factors cost the owners money, forcing many restaurants to close for good. The documentary asks the question and builds the suspense around the question — can Samarco weather the storm and keep Belle Vie alive?

There are great things about this documentary with one of them being a time capsule to history. And by focusing on this single restaurant with its small number of employees, the filmmaker allows the audience to care on a micro-level.

We also understand that Samarco and his wife, Ornella, genuinely care about their craft and the community. A bold move maybe but instead of outsourcing the needed work necessary to comply with outside dining regulations, Samarco does it himself, finding joy in the act. This is an optimistic man who spreads joy like jelly on toast. He loves to cook and this becomes so much fun to watch, it’s downright infectious. I say that all the moments in Marcus Mizelle’s documentary Belle Vie are solid but there are a few standout moments, like when Samarco and a Christmas tree salesman chop it up. The second, and very touching is when he reminisces about his grandpa.

Belle Vie is beautiful to look at, wonderfully edited and has a contemporary style that will stand the test of time. This is also an important marker as it relates to how America, Los Angeles in particular, dealt with COVID-19. Plus, let’s not forget the most important element and that is Samarco’s charming, determined and warm personality.

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