Chez Schwartz

(2006) 83 minutes
Produced by Les Productions du Boulevard

Chez Schwartz takes us inside a year in the life of Schwartz’s Deli, the unique 75-year-old landmark on Montreal’s historic Main – St. Laurent Boulevard.

Famous worldwide for its smoked meat sandwiches, Schwartz’s Deli is also home to a fascinating cast of characters.

Filmed through changing seasons, from the quiet of early morning preparation to the frenetic bustle of packed lunch times and never ending line-ups, to the more relaxed ambience late at night, Chez Schwartz is an evocative, cinematic portrait of a small but spunky deli full of charm and the drama of human life.

Through observational vignettes, we come to know the men of Schwartz’s Deli – Frank, Johnny, Alex and others: the waiters and busboys, meat cutters and grill men who have become fixtures of the deli – some for as long as 40 years. Most are immigrants from Portugal, Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Asia. While they serve generously stacked smoked meat sandwiches, fries, pickles and cherry colas to an array of local and international patrons, we discover how a legendary institution transforms their lives.

We also meet another group of men – Ryan, Herman, and Adrian: the panhandlers who have stationed themselves at the front entrance on the Main for the past 15 years and earn their livelihood from the deli’s patrons.

As these stories interweave, we become immersed in the restaurant’s culture and daily rituals. Lush and sensual cinematography follows the daily preparation and consumption of spiced smoked meat and condiments. Our camera moves between privileged revelations of character and simple gastronomy as we capture the magic of a classic “hole in the wall” packed with atmosphere and dynamism.

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