Documentary | It happened at 305 Bellechasse

It’s a film about an address. A place. A soul, too. A unique creative space that is no more. And on the work of all his ex-tenants.

Posted at 9:00 a.m.

Silvia Galipeau
The Press

305 Bellechasse, the first feature-length documentary by Maxime-Claude L’Écuyer, is first and foremost a pretext to talk about contemporary art and the little-known (poorly known?) work of its artists. But current events oblige, and because the building has been sold, the artists evicted, and the premises renovated – a renovation still in progress, at the time of writing these lines –, it also relates, although a little in spite of itself, to the gentrification and the precariousness of creation. We will come back to it.

« J’ai voulu faire une sorte d’instantané d’un moment où ce lieu était encore plein de vie », résume le réalisateur, rencontré à deux coins de rues de là cette semaine. « Parce que c’est beau : c’est un espace en mouvance, un espace de recherche, d’exploration […]. A place where everything happens! »

where it all happened…

In theaters this Friday, winner (ex æquo) of the Pierre-et-Yolande-Perrault prize, the film hands out the microphone to a dozen artists (Marc Séguin, Sylvain Bouthillette, Jean-Benoît Pouliot, Christine Major, etc.), who accepted a few years ago to open the doors of this mythical address (former Catelli pasta factory, bought in 1948 by the Schiff family to make sewing workshops, converted into artists’ studios 20 years ago ), located between Mile End and Little Italy, to reveal the back of their paintings. Their intimacy, somewhere, in all vulnerability.

Think: pace of work, schedules, motivation. The bread and butter of creation, what. Without forgetting the favorite background music (from total silence to post-hardcore), or the art of finding the famous inspiration.


Image taken from 305 Bellechasse

Clarification: Maxime-Claude L’Écuyer, armed with a camera on his shoulder, and using long sequence shots, takes us behind the scenes of this bygone lair, through the various (and diversified) workshops, without ever showing the creators, whom we only hear about each other, in voiceover. Because it is first and foremost their works that are in the spotlight. And the walls, steeped in history (more than 400 workers once worked here, as evidenced by the hundreds of needles found in the cracks of the floor!), which saw them born.

Between the walls

To come back to inspiration, it does not fall from the sky, we understand over these two hours of quasi-contemplative immersive visit. Rather, it is the result of long hours, even weeks of work. Nicolas Grenier, not to name him, literally spends days mixing a color. If you’ve always wondered about the famous “artist’s ritual”, you’ll know everything. Demystification included.

It is creation in the work. Creation does not happen by divine intervention!

Maxime-Claude L’Écuyer, director

Because he lives in the neighborhood, is a good friend of several artists, Maxime-Claude L’Écuyer has therefore entered these famous walls. He notably interviewed Marc Séguin, the man behind the conversion of the floors. You have to hear him sell the project to the owner at the time (end of 1990). If the tenants will pay for their workshops? “It’s the only, the first thing they pay for in their life”, a phrase that says a lot about the bond of attachment artists have to their place of creation (“the only stability in my life”, “a little my house”, “this is where I vote!”).


Image taken from 305 Bellechasse

Many have been there since the beginning. Lulled by their words, the viewer almost forgets the anticipated outcome. Program. Because we know it: 305 Bellechasse was sold in 2018 to real estate developers, whose practices in terms of eviction and aggressive renovations regularly make headlines.

Suddenly, and almost without transition (Maxime-Claude L’Écuyer had almost finished his film when the sale was concluded!), images of empty rooms arrive on the screen. Exit the canvases, no more pots of paint or the slightest brush: the contrast is violent. “It went with the concept of the film: I magnified these spaces that I saw so alive, suddenly dead…”

Admittedly, since then, most artists have relocated. Marc Séguin launched his Ateliers 3333 on boulevard Crémazie. Sylvain Bouthillette and several former members of 305 Bellechasse met at the Ateliers Casgrain. “It remains that it is real estate, and we will not hide it, the artists do not have the biggest salaries, concludes our director. It is the fragility of these spaces that is conveyed by my images. For his part, he has only one wish: “I want people to go and see contemporary art. And that they are interested in artists…”

In theaters in Montreal (Cinémathèque québécoise and Cinéma du Musée), Sherbrooke (La Maison du Cinéma) and Quebec City (Cinéma Cartier)

The article is in French

Tags: Documentary happened Bellechasse

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