Eye For Film >> Movies >> Gaz Bar Blues (2003) Film Review
Gaz Bar Blues
Reviewed by: Claire Sawers
Monsieur Brochu is trying his best to keep Le Gaz Bar open, despite a lot of obstacles. Set in 1980s Quebec, his friendly petrol station is about to be made defunct, as large self-serve chains take over. To make matters worse, the Champlain Gaz Bar is regularly targetted by local hoodlums for hold-ups and robberies and the few customers that Brochu has are too poor to pay the bill and rely on him for credit. To cap it all, two of his sons who help run the place, are keen to move on to pastures new.
Réjean, the eldest, has always been loyal and responsible, but feels the need to spread his wings and take his amateur photography further. When the Berlin Wall falls, he packs a bag and takes off to where the action is.
Younger brother Guy is something of a lovable bad boy. He doesn't turn up for his shifts and prefers to stay out all night rehearsing with his blues band, or hanging out in jazz clubs enjoying wine, women and song. Ironically, where his elder brothers can't wait to wash their oily hands of family ties, youngest son Alain wants desperately to be more involved in the business, but, at 14, isn't allowed.
The scene is set for some compelling family dynamics. Writer/director Louis Belanger's screenplay is undoubtedly moving, despite a saggy stretch in the middle. There's a fine line between painting a portrait of small town life in the doldrums, coloured with eccentric local characters, and something that's just plain dull.
Occasionally he misses the mark. The episodes where the local old boys sit on the forecourt, sipping beer and shooting the crow, are insightful and very funny, but too frequent and uneventful. Having said that, the supporting cast of obese drop-outs, clumsy thieves and 60-year-old virgins add much needed colour to the grey backdrop of industrial Quebec. Scrapyards and train tracks give the film a bleakness that makes the friendship between the Gaz Bar likely lads seem all the more precious.
By mirroring events in Berlin, Belanger shows how painful it can be to replace old familiar regimes with radical and, at first, unwelcome changes. Besides the obvious issue of modernisation, the film's most touching sequences are those where Brochu struggles to come to terms with his family growing up and not needing him anymore.
Serge Thierault's performance, as the tough guy father, is memorable in this very thoughtful, understated and ultimately uplifting drama.Reviewed on: 21 Jan 2004
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