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INTERVIEW | David Sigal Chronicles the History & Final Days of “Florent: Queen of the Meat Market”

INTERVIEW | David Sigal Chronicles the History & Final Days of "Florent: Queen of the Meat Market"

David Sigal’s entertaining documentary “Florent: Queen of the Meat Market,” chronicles the history and final days of New York’s legendary all-night diner. Below find an Email interview with Sigal. The film hits select theaters Friday, May 20.

Let Julianne Moore, Isaac Mizrahi, Michael Musto and other famous (and infamous) faces take you on a fantastic voyage to New York City’s legendary Florent diner.

For 23 years, the all-night eatery in the city’s Meat Packing District was prime stomping ground for a surprising mix of A-list celebrities, tourists, families and club kids, and it played an important role in LGBT activism and culture. This wildly entertaining documentary chronicles the history and final days of this outrageous icon! [Synopsis courtesy of the film’s website]

Responses courtesy of director David Sigal.

An early love of cinema…

I have been infatuated with movies and art from a very early age. In fact, my grandfather gave me his Brownie camera when I was 8 and I started taking pictures. When my family got an early, huge vhs camcorder, I would drag that thing everywhere I went and shoot conversations with family members. I attended the graduate film program at NYU’s Tisch school, where I pursued both directing and cinematography. I’ve been hooked since.

People watching at Restaurant Florent…

I was a loyal customer of Restaurant Florent. It reminded me of a later-day version of Andy Warhol’s Factory. You could see anyone from blue-haired club kids to little blue-haired old ladies, and everyone in-between: celebrities, socialites, politicians, tourists and everyday New Yorkers. It was hip, glamorous and accessible.

The film is about how New York has changed over the last 25 years, as seen through the eyes of Florent Morellet, who owned the restaurant, and his staff and customers. But it’s also about coping with loss. When I first started filming in 2008, I didn’t know that Morellet was in the middle of a rent dispute that would lead him to close six months later. He didn’t want to go quietly. So Morellet recruited his performer friends and staged the closing over five weeks through different themes according to the Kubler-Ross stages of grief. Every night during this period, the restaurant became a mini-Moulin Rouge. We captured these moments on film, leading up to closing night.

Developing a documentary style…

I wanted to make a documentary where Florent and the other subjects did all the talking. We tried really hard not to have me in the movie as an interviewer and not to have a narrator.

Greatest challenges?

It was pretty challenging to coordinate all of the interviews (there were over 100), especially when you’re dealing with the schedules of famous people like Julianne Moore, Diane Von Furstenberg, Isaac Mizrahi, Christo and others.

Impromptu nudity…

One day I was shooting two loyal customers of Florent on Gansevoort street during the day. They decided to pull down their pants and expose themselves in broad daylight. And no, I didn’t ask them to do it! There are literally hundreds of other anecdotes, too, and most of them we captured on film.

Anything in the works?

I am developing some scripted projects based on historical figures and have plans to begin shooting a documentary focused on a New York politician as soon as possible.

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