Documentary | It happened at 305 Bellechasse

It’s a film about an address. A place. Also a soul. A unique creative space that no longer exists. And to the work of all his ex-tenants.

Posted at 9:00 am

Silvia Galipeau

Silvia Galipeau
The press

305 Bellchasse, Maxime-Claude L’Écuyer’s first feature-length documentary, is primarily an excuse to talk about contemporary art and the little-known (little-known?) work of its artists. But current events oblige, and because the building has been sold, the artists evicted and the premises refurbished – a refurbishment still underway at the time of writing these lines – it also relates, albeit a little against itself, on gentrification and the precariousness of creation. We’ll come back to that.

« 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 everything happened…

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

Think about: 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 Bellchasse

Clarification: Maxime-Claude L’Écuyer, armed with a camera on his shoulder, takes us behind the scenes of this past cave with long sequences, through the different (and varied) workshops without ever showing the creators who we only hear from each other , in voiceover. First and foremost, their works are in the limelight. And the walls steeped in history (once more than 400 workers worked here, as evidenced by hundreds of needles in the cracks in the ground!) that witnessed its birth.

Between the walls

Coming back to inspiration, it doesn’t just fall out of the sky, we understand that in these two hours of quasi-contemplative, immersive visit. Rather, it is the result of long, even weeks of work. Nicolas Grenier, not to mention him, literally spends days mixing a color. If you’ve always wondered about the famous “artist’s ritual,” you know it all. Disenchantment included.

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

Maxime-Claude L’Écuyer, Director

Because he lives in the neighborhood and is friends with several artists, Maxime-Claude L’Écuyer entered these famous walls. In particular, he interviewed Marc Séguin, the man behind the remodeling of the floors. You have to hear how he sold the project to the owner back then (late 1990). Will tenants pay for their workshops? “It’s the only, the first what they pay for in their life”, a sentence that says a lot about the connection between the artists and their place of work (“the only solid in my life”, “a little my house”), “Hier I choose!”).


Image taken from 305 Bellchasse

Many have been there from the start. Lulled by her words, the viewer almost forgets the expected result. Program. Because we know it: 305 Bellechasse was sold in 2018 to real estate developers whose practices of evictions and aggressive renovations regularly make headlines.

Suddenly and almost seamlessly (Maxime-Claude L’Écuyer had almost finished his film by the time the sale closed!), images of empty spaces appear on the screen. Leave the canvases, no more paint pots or the smallest brush: the contrast is fierce. “It fitted the concept of the film: I enlarged these spaces that I saw so alive, suddenly dead…”

Admittedly, since then most of the artists have moved. Marc Séguin opened his workshops at 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 highest salaries,” concludes our director. It is the fragility of these spaces that my paintings convey. 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)

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