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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Léolo" is one of the best unknown films of the 90's. It is regarded in
some quarters as the very best French-Canadian film ever made. It is a
triumphant and devastating picture that will leave you haunted by its
images and sounds and reflecting on its characters and events for a
long time after you see it. The title character is the adolescent
Léolo, wondrously played by Montréal's Maxime Collin, who has kind of a
cult following among the young there, is the youngest member of a
dysfunctional family living in Montréal in the fifties.
His real name is Leon Lauzon, but he mock-Italianizes it to Léolo Lozone, because he wants to be Italian. It is the private escape from family misery for this sensitive youth who loves to read and fantasize. He fantasizes that he was born after his mother had been impregnated by a Sicilian tomato, because an Italian had ejaculated into it. His sister Nanette is near-catatonic, his sister Rita communicates with insects. Daddy administers laxatives to the family members as though he were passing out the Eucharist. He examines his kids' feces in the toilet, just to make sure they have pooped well. They are more in than out of a mental institution.
During the course of the film, young Léolo drools over the buxom Sicilian girl living next door, attempts to kill his grandfather because he blames him for all the family's problems. Big brother Fernand gets into body-building after being roughed-up by a neighborhood bully, but the muscles do not transform his timid coward's heart. The scene where this wimpy Atlas is beaten and humiliated before Léolo's eyes is one of the most poignant scenes I've seen in nearly sixty years of movie-going. Léolo's mother, a corpulent earth-mother, played by French-Canadian singer Ginette Reno, is the only anchor of sanity.
There are scenes in this movie which shock or make us uneasy and the movie caused an uproar in some quarters. We see some childhood sexual experimentation, leather-coated adolescents tormenting a cat in a sick ritual, a prostitute masturbating two young boys in the ruins of a demolished building. Léolo masturbates himself using a piece of liver...which his mom later cooks up for the family dinner.
Out of all this bizarre material, director Jean-Claude Lauzon, who died since the making of this masterpiece, has fashioned a complex, mesmerizing work of art that is semi-autobiographical, and at once a labor of love and virtuosic skill. The acting, the photography, the use of camera movement, the evocative use of an enormous variety of music that includes everything from Buddhist chants to Tom Waits, the thrilling poetic transitions are all of such an imaginative height as to make thousands of other movies from the same period seem puny by comparison. "Léolo" has often been viewed as a kinky comedy. While there are indeed elements of that, it really needs to be seen for what it really is: a shattering family drama of truly lyric force.
Echoes of the magnificent THE TIN DRUM reverberate through the
stunning, lyrical French-Canadian LEOLO.
The late Jean-Claud Lauzon's masterwork filters a dysfunctional family through the eyes of a dreamer who imagines himself to be Italian.
The film is filled with gorgeous cinematic studies of childhood cruelty, sexual abuse, eccentricity, first love, first self-love, insanity, obsession, unusual uses for meat products, and familial bonds.
As Leolo, Maxime Collin is without peer, delivering a truly amazing performance as a young boy on a difficult journey of discovery and exploration.
A wonderful Tom Waits cue anchors the soundtrack and eccentric supporting performances bring vivid color to the drama.
The film is photographed and directed with such amazing precision and passion that you can not help but be propelled by it.
In every sense an original, emotional work, and one of the best films ever made.
An obscure modern classic.
Wonderful sad film about the tragedy of a sensitive soul in conflict with a society that is brutal, vulgar, and obscene. One of the most unusual films ever made-- daring and audacious, and richly rewarding. And the Tom Waits songs on the sound track are just right for this movie: melancholy and off-beat.
I absolutely adore this movie.
I first saw it with a group of friends at the local college town art cinema when it was first released. When it ended, hardly anyone in the theater even stirred, slowly and quietly rising only after the credits ran out. Afterwards, we went for drinks, as had been the plan for the evening, but it took a long time for us to break out of the film's spell and begin to really talk. When we finally did, each of us was relieved to find that everyone else had been as moved by it as each had individually.
The reason for all this doubt and anxiety, I believe, is the film itself. It doesn't rely on any conventions at all, nor does it allow the viewer to respond via convention. What it does do is provide the viewer with an intensely private view of the characters. You get to see them in broad daylight at times and on occasions where one would most want to be absolutely alone. Because of this willingness to really expose its characters, a more honest self-relation is demanded in response and for a response. (In this respect in reminds me a bit of Milan Kundera's novels, during the reading of which I often find myself embarrassed for the characters that I am there intruding on their privacy.) I think what myself and my friends (then still young adults) feared was revealing something about ourselves--a kind of fragility and ambivalence in one's own self-relation that one normally represses, but which this film repeatedly draws to the surface. Wouldn't admitting that one was moved by these characters be also an admission that one could relate to them in some more profound way? Yes, and I have felt just a little bit less alone in the world since seeing Leolo. Not better perhaps, but less alone.
A truly great, great movie. Rent it on VHS, grab a Canadian DVD off of Ebay, or pester IFC to show it again (record it because you'll want to see it again), but don't miss it.
I caught this late one night on the Independent film channel i caught the first few minutes and was amazed when i had finally seen the whole thing I loved it rarely have i seen a more poetic or brilliantly told portrait of any person young or old personified on screen the film is French-Canadian but transcends language Maxime Collin's performance is stellar. The voice over narration adds just the right element to the film. It is often funny, dramatic, heart wrenching and odd in the same breath and enjoyable throughout. Leolo is a film that is a rarity and most definitely a can't miss.
I found this movie on a used VHS tape the other day and decided to
check it out since it was a Canadian production.
Man, I can't decide whether I love or hate this movie. It's just plain weird! Sometimes it had me laughing (like in the beginning with the tomato, later when Leolo trades his flies for his sister's turd, etc); And then sometimes I was totally grossed out (like the cat scene). And the raw meat incident was sick, then later hilarious when it got served for dinner. There's definitely some "toilet" humour throughout this film.
Almost always I watch movies for enjoyment and I try not to analyse too much because it often spoils my enjoyment. But I've noticed some really deep analysis from previous reviewers regarding this film. And honestly, some of it is way too deep for me. (Maybe I'm the ignorant savage in the art museum.).
I wouldn't really class this movie as a comedy although it has some humorous scenes (very dark humour). I'd say this movie was more like a trip through a mental institution. It is a very haunting movie and I did find myself reflecting on it every so often for a while. It's a thinker for sure. It seemed sensitive, but in a very harsh way.
Acting was very good in my opinion. Any actor who can pull off roles like the ones in this movie has to be good.
Normally, I'm not fond of narration. But for some reason it didn't seem to bother me in this film. It sort of fit in better I guess.
This movie could freak out a lot of people. It's really worth watching, but not for young kids. I gave it 8 out of 10 because it was well acted, made me think on it, and it was certainly unique. Also I respect a person who goes against the flow to make something original.
Leolo is an amazingly well made story of a boy filled with dreams named Leolo. His family is disturbed in many different ways from phecophilliac parents to muscle obsessed brothers. the unique aspect of this movie is it's use of fragmented time and it's non causal narrative. it has moments of sheer hilarity and heavy emotional impact. the characters are all incredibly well drawn unique and believable. Warning some scenes are not for the weak hearted as one scene in particular can really effect you for a couple of days unless of course you hate cats. I don't want to give too much away but this is an absolute must see. You may regret seeing this but it's worth whatever irrepareable mental problems.
This is one of the best movies ever made. It is beautifully shot, has
great music, an amazing story and it is deeply touching. The first time
I watched it, in a movie theater, I just sat there after the film had
ended, emotionally exhausted. Since then, I have seen it on TV and on a
bad copy of a VHS tape, neither of which do this wonderful movie
justice. So the question is: why is there no DVD available of one of
the best movies ever made? Someone must own the rights; or are they in
an insane asylum?
Edit: Since I first wrote this comment, the DVD has been published. I advise anyone who likes great, artistic movies to do as I did and buy it.
Which came first, the disturbing or the disturbed? This is a difficult
film for me to assay. Certainly I did not enjoy "Leolo" but then there
are many films I have appreciated which I did not enjoy. Despite being
tagged as such, this film was never a comedy for me, outlandish scenes
too often were tainted by a ring of tragic truth. Well, I should
clarify and say "at least an emotional truth."
This film reminded me of Baudelaire and Rabelais. I remember in my late teens, seeking out those poets feeling that I should appreciate them from the little I had heard about them. Someone probably mentioned Iggy Pop in the same breath with 'em. Anyways, their poems never did connect with me, I remember thinking that something in translation or in the transatlantic crossing was lost upon me. This film has many moments like that (despite a shorter journey down from Canada), but cast amidst shining gems of genius. One example, the recurrent use of the refrigerator light, and other illumination, shining over Leolo's shoulder.
This film slips and dips into the "rabelaisian" in the reduced definition, i.e. a fecal focus. A childhood is deprived more than depraved, but a little of both. If any sexual appetite is offensive for you, than this film is not for you... Spend your time on some counseling instead.
And yet for me, much of the film was grotesque...and I think that's a nearly perfect word for it, what with its stylish franco-suffix... gracefully covering over its seamier stewings. Like a sauce over spoiled meat.
But as I think more about this film: the merd, the bugs, the dead dog in the canal...all of that waste, is not wasted. Instead the images, the reviling of an earthly existence drive us off the screen and into the voiced-over poetry of Leolo. Even in translation and subtitle, the words had a precise beauty. A beauty I feel was intentionally and successfully accented by the sordid scenarios stitched together.
It would be an interesting test for someone to read the poetry from the screenplay first and then watch the film. Would the words be strong enough without the sights, sounds and implied smells of Leolo's world to suffice?
While I cannot honestly recommend this film (too many times I found myself hoping that a fade-to-black was final), it would be interesting to hear/read others' comments. I'll come back to the reviews here, and maybe the film in the future.
Til' then, I 'll give it a 6/10
PS Interesting. In posting my review the "s-word" now appears to be banned...so let them read "merd."
I was completely unprepared for this movie. There is an alchemy in which
sadness and humor are made into something more. I was left in a very
different world at the end of this movie. An absolute must see. By the
way, the score is way cool, Tom Waits, Lorena Mckennit,
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