Film-Fest Review: Chez Schwartz

What director Garry Beitel wants to show you is that there’s more to Schwartz’s than a good lunch–the narrow, age old Montreal landmark is a hub of excitement. The film offers insight into the lives of the staff–some who’ve walked the linoleum tiles for more than 30 years–and patrons who’ll remember their first sandwich for a long time yet. While the look into the lives revolving around the deli is certainly compelling, it’s also where the movie falters.

The figures on screen aren’t actors, they’re just people who’ve been a part of Schwartz’s for a long time. They’re interesting and some have surprising presence, but there are still awkward people who slow down the pace.

Like the movie’s cast, there are some knocks against the authenticity. The space, which has housed Schwartz’s for the last 78 years, is crammed with tables, waiters and bussers cutting a quick line through the tide of patrons. Finding space to seat a table of four in the packed eatery is a task, but finding space for a functioning film crew is harder than ordering only one stack of steaming, delicious cow.

Despite its faults, an unchanging set, maladroit staff and a few slow spots, Chez Schwartz tells very touching human stories and is worth the attention. Ultimately, movies are about great stories–not great sandwiches.

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