Appellate Judge James A. Stewart plans to open his restaurant in a hot air balloon, so there are no downs.
"It's better to close when you are up, rather than when you are down."—Sirio Maccioni
Actually, it's best to close when you can reopen again in a new location, as Sirio Maccioni did with New York's Le Cirque restaurant. Le Cirque went out in style with a packed New Year's Eve party in 2004 and reopened in 2006 with a first-night crowd that included the likes of Donald Trump, Cardinal Edward Egan, Tony Bennett, Bill Cosby, Billy Joel, Woody Allen, Joan Rivers, and Glenn Close.
Also on hand for the closing and reopening was filmmaker Andrew Rossi, whose own father, Rubrio Rossi, once owned Parioli Romanissimo in New York. The new incarnation of Le Cirque thankfully is still planted firmly on Earth at the Bloomberg Building, but Rossi's documentary is titled Le Cirque: A Table in Heaven.
The HBO documentary introduces viewers to veteran restaurateur Sirio Maccioni and his three sons—Mario, Marco, and Mauro—as the final night of the original four-star Le Cirque nears. It tells how Sirio came over from Italy to quickly become maitre'd at The Colony, with dreams of one day opening his own restaurant. Clips show some of Le Cirque's most glorious moments, with diners who included Richard Nixon, Nancy Reagan, and Helen Gurley Brown.
Sirio and his wife Egidiana at times express regret at having gone into such a demanding business (although you won't really believe Sirio, who appears quite happy to be preparing food for New York's rich and famous), but their three sons all followed their father into the restaurant life, with Mario opening a Le Cirque branch in Las Vegas.
Relations with the three sons are strained as Sirio makes his plans for the new Le Cirque. Sirio still believes in the formal dining experience, while the sons want to refresh things to grow the business. There's lots of bickering as the family discusses its plans. There's also retrenchment after reopening; the new Le Cirque only rated an unappetizing two stars in its first New York Times review, and everyone wants at least one more star.
While some viewers might relish the celebrity spotting (with names onscreen for all stars), I found the generation clash in the planning stages and the return to the drawing board fascinating. A little more on the tweaks could have been interesting, but even at a lean 74 minutes, Le Cirque presents the challenges facing a new (or even semi-new) restaurant dramatically.
The vintage footage is faded and full of flecks and lines, but the current footage is clean and well-shot, including some picture-postcard images of Sirio on a trip back to Italy. Le Cirque, rather than relying on ambient sound to convey the feel of hustle and bustle, adds a musical score heavy on classical and bouncy retro notes.
Extras include bonus scenes (including Egidiana's citizenship ceremony), bios, and text of an interview with the director.
Le Cirque provides enough glimpses of glamour to please star watchers, while giving viewers a look at what was involved in the transformation of Le Cirque.
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