[Entrevue] “Gas Bar Blues”: New Life for an Unforgettable Movie
which appeared on the screens 20 years ago, Gas Bar Blues joins a growing group of beloved Quebec films finding new life on stage. For Duceppe’s artistic director David Laurin, who signed on for the adaptation, Louis Bélanger’s beautiful film marked a transition in local cinema that casts the father figure in a different light. “We are used to seeing a poor, violent father, a man of few words who does not help to solve problems. So this sensitive respect for the father was a kind of UFO and gave birth to babies. I think he took a generation of directors to another place. »
This personal story, inspired by the director’s childhood memories in Limoilou, “achieves something so simple and universal that it affects everyone”, judges Martin Drainville. The actor plays a gas station owner debilitated by Parkinson’s disease, struggling to keep the family business afloat in 1989, threatened by the advent of self-service, while his children caress about their dreams other than working there. “For me, it’s also about the difficulty of saying ‘I love you.’ Especially in male relationships. I think Louis Belanger made a movie rather than tell his father. Telling our dads we love them is a lot of work. »
It is this role of the father that draws Drainville to the show. He totally understands his character’s anxiety. “I know myself more as a father than an actor. Despite François Brochu’s somewhat crooked side, we cannot doubt his sincerity in wanting to provide a better destiny for his children. »
[Cette histoire] achieved something simple and universal enough to affect everyone. For me, it’s also about the difficulty of just saying “I love you.” Especially in male relationships. I think Louis Belanger made a movie rather than tell his father. Telling our dads we love them is a lot of work.
And we are often talking about a generation of men who, with modesty, find it difficult to express themselves and stand out with a complex in front of their more educated children, because they allowed themselves to be “fooled” by the vocabulary of the latter, their vocabulary. says Martin Drainville, who saw it with his own father. The actor likes it Gas Bar Blues gives voice to people who are “not good at talking”, whereas we now live in a “Facebook world” where image prevails, where “competence, whether in politics or business, is convincing people that they are competent”.
What makes this story interesting for him is the period in which it took place, the year of the fall of the Berlin Wall, a period of great upheaval. “The entire communist bloc is collapsing. It’s the end of a world. And a wall also falls gas bar. The characters don’t realize it, but that world can no longer exist because it can no longer be economically viable. And 30 years later, we see it. When it comes to businesses, it’s Amazon, online commerce… ”A phenomenon accelerated by the pandemic.
The show, which will travel across Quebec, pays tribute to small neighborhood businesses on a human scale. At a service station around which a whole regular community is concentrated. “The gas bar, its function was to sell gasoline, but it was more than that. There was very basic human contact. »
By transposition Gas Bar Blues, David Laurin wanted to preserve the heart of the piece and retain as many elements as possible. “Since the film is mainly autobiographical, I wanted to treat the truth with utmost respect. »
Director Louis Bélanger submitted every version of the adapter text to him, even if he very clearly gave him carte blanche. “Let’s note that the children of Lui’s family were satisfied with the film. But his sisters and mother asked him: “Why did you wipe us out?” Louis still feels bad about it today. But he explained to them that this is to serve the work, it touches more [de voir] a single father who had to let his children go and close his business, with a woman by his side to help him and his very responsible daughters. »
In addition to reducing the number of scenes needed for the theater, the main change is also the creation of a female character, a combination of two figures from the film: the older daughter and the younger son, the observant alter ego of the filmmaker. . The story is told from the point of view of this teenager.
However, the transposition, according to Laurie, posed a central question: what would encourage the public to come to the theater if the film was “already exceptional”? The answer: create an event around it. “The audience should experience something special. Offer something else, but respect the work. The experience will be through the music, which is already very important in the feature film directed by the brother of harmonist Guy Bélanger. The production, directed by Édith Patenaude, has attracted musicians who will perform the composition of double bassist Mathie Désin, who is a master of the instrument, live on stage without songs.
“That’s the difference between us and the movie: we’re on the soundtrack,” notes Martin Drainville. It will be increasingly difficult to attract someone to the space, especially after the pandemic. “However, the actor, who said that he does not believe in digital change in the theater, feels that people miss the experience of seeing a work in communication with others. “In the room, our senses are tested more. vibration of to show, from the public, it is unique. And the music brings it. This is how we will bring people back to theaters: by giving them a sensation. »
According to the actor, this frame of blues plays a supporting role. “Sometimes when a character has nothing to say, the music takes over. And he’s everywhere in the show. I don’t play an instrument, but I’m immersed in it. It’s like a wave, the room turns into a surfboard and carries us away. »
In Francois Brochus, the translator inherits a very likable character, a male figure “a little”. rough, a little awkward, but kind.” To compose it, “I use what I am, what I see.” And Serge Teryault has a bit of an influence on me, probably unknowingly. The obstacle of this role is the possible comparison. Serge Teryault was extraordinary.”
Thanks to his fair and effective interpretation, we rediscovered the actor who was very much associated with Moman at that time. Little life. in an interview Be forced In 2003, before the film premiered at the opening of the World Film Festival, Louis Bélanger explained that he had chosen Serge Theriault to play the title character. Gas Bar Blues — a job that involves humor: “I find that actors who are called funny are always good at dramatization. »
Long known for his comic roles, Martin Drainville has seen his perception change in recent years, especially thanks to the film he starred in. Hardings By Alexia Bürger or in the series Fragile By Serge Boucher. “The first role we play that people notice, sometimes we play it for a very long time, except when we change our name…,” he quips. I mean, I love comedy. You have to be real to make people laugh. For me, doing a drama or a comedy is the same thing. Comedies are often dramas for the characters who live them. »
Translator of the new version to brew “Take advantage” of this glorious period when the range of roles offered to him expanded. A change he welcomed without bitterness. “I loved doing comedy, and if I loved it, it was because I wanted to. But I mean, everything was there forever…”