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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.
Léo Lauzon is a young boy living in a Montreal slum with his weird
family. He doesn't get along with his grandfather. His older brother
Fernand starts pumping up after getting picked on by a bully. His
sister Rita is mentally disturbed. He writes in his book and has an
imaginary world. He doesn't see any similarity between himself and his
rotund silent hard-working father. He imagines he comes from another
father who masturbated into a crate of tomatoes in Sicily. His mother
gets impregnated after getting knocked into the pile of tomatoes.
This is one weird movie. It has a lot of odd sexual allusions. The memorable scenes are utterly unique. I don't really like narrators in general. I wish the movie would have more of a structure to the story. His coming-of-age story meanders too much. Nevertheless, this is a good and completely different kind of movie.
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.
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.
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.
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