Belle Vie - Everything We Know So Far

French restaurateur Vincent Samarco had a dream: He wanted to open a French eatery in Los Angeles, California, and introduce his customers to authentic French food in a small, friendly space. He told Voyage LA in 2019, "Most customers think that French food is a steak with fries or a french onion soup which is not very representative of the french table that is now part of UNESCO cultural heritage of humanity."

Samarco managed to launch his eatery, Belle Vie, in 2016 and said that his team was keen on offering the Parisian dining experience to customers. They made a conscious effort to work on "classic recipes with a twist of modernity" and ensured that everything (from the service to the food itself) was reflective of the culinary scene in France. As was the case with most restaurants during the pandemic, however, things got extremely difficult for Samarco in 2020, and he struggled to stay afloat. According to the Los Angeles Times, a new documentary is focusing on the restaurant's story from the last two years.

What is the plot of 'Belle Vie?' and when will it be released?

Per Fine Dining Lovers, viewers will witness the "pandemic journey" of Belle Vie at the Santa Barbara Film Festival on March 9. Directed by Marcus Mizelle, the documentary, also titled "Belle Vie," follows Vincent Samarco as he tries to keep Belle Vie thriving amid the spread of Covid-19, lockdowns, and other trials and tribulations during the pandemic, including "bankruptcy, red tape and personal loss." 

The restaurant managed to become a "culinary hub" over the years and was loved by locals. In fact, the paintings at Belle Vie were gifts from customers and fans who loved the eatery and wanted to support it in their own way. Belle Vie was doing well for itself in 2019 before the pandemic took over: Patrons flocked to the eatery for French dishes such as steak tartare, roast chicken with morel sauce, moules marinière, and more, per the Los Angeles Times.

For Mizelle, Samarco's story was inspiring in more ways than one. He told the LA Times, "What popped in my head, from a storyteller standpoint, is No. 1, you have this wonderful protagonist — colorful, nice, wonderful — it was a no-brainer." He added that the pandemic was, of course, a major challenge that Samarco had to overcome and said, "It just instinctively made sense [to work on the film]."

More about the protagonist of 'Belle Vie'

Even while his restaurant was fighting hard to stay in business, Samarco remained optimistic and hopeful about the future. In the trailer for "Belle Vie," he's heard saying things like, "[I'm] ready to do anything to try to save the business." It was July of 2020, and the restaurateur was trying to create an appealing patio space for outdoor dining, per the LA Times. "If not, it's bankruptcy tomorrow," he adds. Per director Marcus Mizelle, the team shot the film for a little over a month throughout 2020 and 2021. "Belle Vie" offers viewers an honest look at Samarco's life as a restaurant owner as he scouts for supplies, fights for his restaurant's survival, and spends time with his loved ones in France and Los Angeles.

Despite Samarco's best efforts, Belle Vie didn't survive the pandemic and shut shop in December of 2020; the film shows emotional scenes as he packs up the space and bids it farewell. The restaurateur is now working on another eatery in Los Angeles but knows that he can't focus on the same concept because of logistical and financial difficulties. He said, "I do want to reopen a French restaurant, I'm just too afraid right now. I lost everything."