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|Index||64 reviews in total|
To me, 'Léolo' is like a rare gemstone. A unique, surreal fairytale,
which you can look at from many different angles and yet it remains
hard to describe. Although there clearly is a structured narrative, I
believe this film is more to be felt than understood. While it's often
tragic and disturbing, it's also very funny and darkly comic. Somehow
fitting for a story inspired by childhood memories, reality and fantasy
are seamlessly interwoven to create an often dream-like, sometimes
This was only director Jean-Claude Lauzon's second film, and sadly he never got to make more than two; he died in a plane crash while he was preparing his third film.
A beautiful, unforgettable work of art, albeit not one for the easily offended.
My vote: 10 out of 10
Favorite films: http://www.IMDb.com/list/mkjOKvqlSBs/
Lesser-known Masterpieces: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls070242495/
Favorite Low-Budget and B-movies: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls054808375/
Favorite TV-Shows reviewed: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls075552387/
This is one of the few movies that left me mystified. Was it trying to
create only mood (however unpleasant), was it trying to convey a deep
message (however obscure), was it trying to show that there is squalor
in modern Montreal (however unsurprising)? All of these? None of these?
Why was this movie made?
A boy is coming of age in a totally dysfunctional family. The parents are obsessed with bodily functions - the father checks the boy's output after each visit to the toilet; all five children are forced to take laxatives. If you see dark humor in this, then you may like this movie. I'm afraid the humor flew over my head.
We see rats in the sink, rats in the bathtub. In one scene, that I assume is to have some special meaning, we see at some length a filthy turkey in the bathtub. What's the meaning of that? And what an inspiring thing it is to see a young boy having sex with a cat.
I felt like taking a shower after watching this movie.
The boy, Léolo, finds his family so difficult to deal with that he escapes into dreams, fantasy, and writing. Maybe understandably, most everyone in this family winds up going nuts or heading toward death.
The music is a grab bag. There is a mixture of things like Tom Waits' "Cold Cold Ground," Tallis' "Spem in Allum," the Stones' "You can't always get what you want," and chanting.
Much of the movie is told in a voice-over and sections of the novel "L'avalée des avallés" by the Canadian Réjean DuCharme are read - this is a book that Léolo is reading and it is the only book in his house. A recurring quote is, "Because I dream, I'm not." I think the idea behind that is that we dream to escape reality, but your guess is as good as mine.
I have to give this movie credit for coming out of nowhere to give us something like we have never seen before, but that doesn't mean that we will like it. Sometimes there is a fine balance between art and pretension and, for me, this movie weighs in on the pretension side.
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 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.
*** 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.
A complex film, in French, of the genesis of a love life of a 12-year old in a
miserable, tragic family afflicted by some unknown genetic disease. The
inspiration to the story, a book of poetry, was used to prop up a table and
was the only book in the house. As Leo was reading the florid, anguished
verses his mind wandered to sunny Italy with the next door neighbor girl,
apparently his vision of paradise. Reality returned though, the horror of
swimming in the poluted river, visiting the hospital, engaging in gang
paint-sniffing, drinking and cat abuse gave the viewer an emotional yo-yo
A powerful film, difficult to classify. Never light-hearted or petty, it visited all the emotions one at a time. Joy however, existed only in delusion.
An honest portrayal of childhood from a young Montreal boy's perspective. Some truly great scenes. Redefines the meaning of a dysfunctional family and avoids the usual scenarios of telling the story of growing up in poverty. Highly recommended.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There are many themes presented in the stunning Quebecois film Leolo, an offbeat portrayal of a child growing up in a dysfunctional family. Of these different themes, the most prevalent appears to be isolation, and specifically the intense isolation of the protagonist. Leo was a true loner amidst a very odd cast of family members and other supporting characters. This concept powerfully drives the film from beginning to end. Early in the film it is seen that Leo is rebellious and different than the rest of his family. He obsessively fantasizes about being from Italian heritage, constantly correcting anyone who calls him Leo rather than Leolo, his preferred Italian name. Although this seems minor, the audience learns from the start that Leo views himself as something that he is not. This can be interpreted as his method of escape. By assuming a different name and identity, Leo lives in his own little world far removed from his family. He disassociates himself with his flesh and blood, establishing a sense of independence and isolation. Leo's most interesting moments throughout the film come when he is alone. The intimate scenes in the bathroom with his piece of liver and porno rags are quite vivid examples. Leo tends to rebel and plot against his family much against their knowledge and he typically does so behind closed doors. His behavior is sneaky and crafty, seen best in the scenes where he attempts to hang his sleazy grandfather or fake a s***. He is voyeuristic, as well. Leo enjoys watching his object of desire, Bianca from a distance by himself. The film ends with Leo alone and further isolated from his family in the hospital. One of the last images the audience receives is that of a lone boy in an empty room. Leo's brother, Fernand is also an isolated soul. Tormented in his youth by the local bully, he trains and becomes muscular and powerful, creating a shield between himself and society. Fernand believes that this transformation will prevent him from being further bullied, and isolates himself in this perceived barricade. Ultimately, it is revealed that Fernand is no different as a powerful man than he was as a skinny teen. His attempt to isolate and protect himself from society fails tragically. The fact that the film is entirely narrated contributes to the notion that Leo is a loner. The narrative perspective is that of an outsider looking in, making observations while keeping a certain distance. The viewer never gets the feeling that Leo is truly part of the family. Rather, he is an observer much like a member of the audience. Certain other films have used this technique well, particularly those made by Martin Scorsese. Both Goodfellas and Casino use similar narration, allowing the audience a greater understanding as outsiders. On a side note, I must mention that I loved this film. I found it downright hilarious and outrageous for the most part. Director Jean-Claude Lauzon created a masterpiece with Leolo which reminds me of another very dark and twisted film, Belgium's Man Bites Dog (or C'est Arrive Pres de Chez Vous as it was originally titled). While both films are heavy in content and perhaps offensive to some, the daring humor must be appreciated. The theme of isolation serves Leolo well and helps Leo's character establish independence and appear more `normal' than his family. Had Leo been just as strange as everyone else, the film would have failed. Without contrast or conflicting viewpoints, craziness appears diluted. Fortunately, in Leolo it is portrayed as powerfully as could be, thanks to Leo the Loner.
'I loved Fernand for his ignorance...because I dream I am not' I watched Leolo again on IFC few nights ago (after what is now more then ten years when I first saw it in a theater) and realized that this film was one of the catalysts for my entrance into the world of cinema. To be part of the film industry is very much, I believe, to dream big. The moment I stop dreaming I would seize to exist. Like Leolo said 'because I don't dream, I am not'. An essential tool for dreaming may be the hardship in having to deal with misunderstood reality. Or possibly being misunderstood all together. Psychological torment and trying to make sense out of situations we find ourselves in, status quo, or sympathy for the world which regardless of our actions keeps going it's own path leaves an artist in constant turmoil. I feel i have so much in common with Leolo that I fear of my own 'death' as a dreamer. Still, just seeing 'Leolo' gives comfort and lesson that once you stop dreaming...life of an artist seizes to exist. Thank you for once again showing me the path.
Well, I just find it strange that this movie so often is regarded as a comedy. Sure, there are some funny parts in it, but only on the surface. I find it to be a very sad and touching story, with a lot of pain underneath. No one agrees?
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