Film Review: ALWAYS AT THE CARLYLE (USA 2018) ***

The iconic Carlyle hotel has been an international destination for a particular jet-set as well as a favorite haunt of the most discernible New Yorkers.


Matthew Miele


Matthew Miele

Documentaries are made for varying reasons. They could be for education, to inform the world of some little known subject, to celebrate a famous person, to whistle blow or to honour a person in a biography.  ALWAYS AT THE CARLYLE, the new documentary written and directed by Matthew Miele celebrates a famous hotel – the famous hotel called the Carlyle.

The iconic Carlyle hotel has been an international destination for a particular jet-set as well as a favourite haunt of the most discernible New Yorkers.  This documentary celebrates glamour – the glamour of the hotel (the cost of a suite could go for as high as $22,000) and the glamour of the guests that have stayed there.  The list of guests includes stars Woody Allen, Wes Anderson, Anthony Bourdain, Naomi Campbell, George Clooney, Sofia Coppola, Alan Cumming and Jon Hamm as well as Presidents and dignitaries like John F. Kennedy and Ted Roosevelt.

The Carlyle Hotel enjoys the reputation popularized by recent movies like the JOHN WICK films and HOTEL ARTEMIS with Jodie Foster.  In these films, a hotel would service any client no matter what background with everyone treated fairly and equally despite any shadiness. At the Carlyle, the management declined to tap the rooms of any suspicious clientele as all hotel guests are treated with respect.  The example given is the request by the government agency to  tap the Iraqi delegation that stayed there during the Gulf War.  No was the answer.

Whatever happens at the Carlyle stays at the Carlyle.  That is the saying and understand of both the staff and guests of the plush expensive hotel.  Even the names of the celebrities are not disclosed by the staff.

Director Mile has assembled a varied cast of interviewees to shed light on the hotel.  Besides the stars mentioned, the hotel staff, many of whom have spent their entire lives working there.  These include Kim of Room Service, Ernesto the doorman, Helal the waiter and several of management from sales to decor designer.

The film reveals the uniqueness of the Carlyle, in the words of both sides, the clientele and staff.  The art decor, the personal friendliness, the class, the care taken and style are a few of the factors.  The staff also speak of their favourite encounters.  George Clooney (who also speaks to the camera in an interview) and John F. Kennedy top the list of the staff’s favourite guests.

What is a hotel without some wicked scandal?  The hotel staff is asked about Marilyn Monroe and Kennedy and about many young and super gorgeous twenty-somethings that enter the hotel doors.  Fortunately, the staff is discreet.

The film’s highlights are the performances that take place at the hotel’s cafe.  A seat is reputed to cost at least $150 with a minimum of a $75 order.  One of the most popular performers is Bobby Short who is shown performing in a brief clip.  His performance and the hotel are also featured in Woody Allen’s film HANNAH AND HER SISTERS.  Woody Allen is also featured playing the clarinet in the cafe.

ALWAYS AT THE CARLYLE is entertaining fluff.  The film celebrates celebrities.



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jeremiah_tower.jpgBoth a biopic of a complicated man and an exploration of the gathering forces that converged to shape a new American cuisine and create the cult of “celebrity chef”.

Director: Lydia Tenaglia
Stars: Mario Batali, Anthony Bourdain, Francesca De Luca

Review by Gilbert Seah

 What’s so special and who is this Jeremiah Tower that the man deserves a full length documentary dedicated to his honour?

Tower is a Master Chef and restaurateur who change the look of restauranting. As chef, he would mingle among the customers, something never done before and he created the importance of a chef’s name in a city. Tower was also a very intriguing person, a visionary and someone, everyone admires.

“I have known Jeremiah for 14 years and yet I can say that I do not know him.” So says one of Jeremiah’s friends. The documentary takes considerable amount of time to introduce this Master Chef and restaurateur to the audience. It is only after 15 minutes that the doc links food to the man, in a cruise ship where Jeremiah, as a boy tastes his first cream cake dessert.

JEREMIAH TOWER: THE LAST MAGNIFICENT is the new food documentary tat explores the remarkable life of Jeremiah Tower, one of the most controversial and influential figures in the history of American gastronomy. Tower began his career at the renowned Chez Panisse in Berkeley in 1972, becoming a pioneering figure in the emerging California cuisine movement. After leaving Chez Panisse, due in part to a famously contentious relationship with founder Alice Waters, Tower went on to launch his own legendary Stars Restaurant in San Francisco. Stars was an overnight sensation and soon became one of America’s top-grossing U.S. restaurants.

After several years, Tower mysteriously walked away from Stars and then disappeared from the scene for nearly two decades, only to resurface (as when the film opens) in the most unlikely of places: New York City’s fabled but troubled Tavern on the Green. There, he launched a journey of self-discovery (offering loss of voiceover for the film on this matter) familiar to anyone who has ever imagined themselves to be an artist. Featuring interviews by Mario Batali, Anthony Bourdain, Ruth Reichl and Martha Stewart, this delicious documentary tells the story of the rise and fall of America’s first celebrity chef.

The film traces using a combination or home movie footage and re-enactments how Jeremiah grew into cooking. He was always living in posh hotels whee he discovered the kitchen, dazzled by the cooking aromas. The hotel kitchen staff adopted him as their own. The audience is told Jeremiah read menus more than story books and concocted meals form the menus as well as collected menus. All this explains Jeremiah’s chef roots in a fascinating manner.

Besides haute cuisine, director Tenaglai also reveals the personal and difficult life of the man. Tower was a homosexual, coming out during taboo times. His restaurant, Stars was singled out by the AIDs activists, despite him paying the hospital ills for two of his employees who came down with the disease. Everyone wanted to sleep with him – and he did with both sexes. His relationship with Alice Waters, an important part of his life is also given due screen time.

JEREMIAH TOWER: THE LAST MAGNIFICENT is an interesting account of an interesting man. The doc will not disappoint.



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