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4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
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on October 20, 2004
Jean-Claude Lauzon was, no doubt, a troubled genius. I have seen Leolo many times and also the documentary about its director titled Lauzon Lauzon.
Leolo is a work of art. Lauzon attacked this project like a composer attacks a symphony. Its said that he played tapes of the musical scores for the producer, while standing over his shoulder and demanding that he read the script immediately.
Lauzon used music like a knife to make his points in some scenes. We hear the sacred tones of classical hymn while we see the gritty sometimes profane reality that Leolo lives in. There is Catholic symbolism and guilt oozing out of this film. The voice who speaks to us off an on throughout the film is excellent; through the voice of the archivist, of Leolo's
papers and deepest thoughts, we are allowed access to his psyche. The voice is also in English on the DVD.
Maxime Collin is an incredible young actor. He plays Leo who refuses to be a french Canadian boy from the poorest part of Montreal and instead he is Leolo's a white shirted Italian boy who lives for romance and beauty (oh yes and the Italian Countryside is beautiful). Our main charter repeats over and over, "I think therefore I am not". There is a lot here that Leolo would "not" want to be. Crazy for starters as his family home is a bit of an asylum.
If you're squeamish, steer away, there are gritty scenes here. Yes a cat gets defiled (among other things), but for the prudish reviewer who claimed he smashed his tape at this point, I really doubt that the cat was hurt. Kinda of like the horses didn't really die in Brave Heart, my friend! Look beyond the cat to the social statement that is being made about the boy who is involved. Remember his mother worries that he is smoking, but has no idea what she ought to be worrying
about. I won't say anymore, spoilers annoy me almost as much as Philistines who watch art film and then get all self-righteous about the gritty bits. (Hint, rent Disney instead, my friend)
This is an art film there is no other way to describe it. It is a comedy but it's a dark art comedy so don't buy it for a laugh out loud evening, there are some really heavy and troubling elements here that will leave you thinking afterwards.
The movie is beautifully filmed and well worth purchasing. I note that the DVD is only available through, at the US site they are only selling the VHS. Buy the DVD, invite over a good friend, open some wine and enjoy the film and the long conversation that will follow it.
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on December 16, 1999
Leo, a precocious child growing up in abject poverty, concocts an alternative identity as an Italian boy (Leolo) conceived through an encounter between his mother and a tomato, freshly doused with the onanistic spritz of an immigrant grocer. Surrounded by a (sur)real family-- a father obsessed with defecation, a sister who reigns as queen of the insects in the crawl-space below the family's tenament apartment, a bullied brother hiding from his environment in a steroid-enhanced body-- Leo(lo) excapes into the fiction of his alternative life, aided by a kind stranger who deposits books at his door-step. At night Leo reads these fantastic stories by stolen-light, and later they seep into his dreams, where he is enthralled and inspired by the beauty of an older neighbor-girl he fancies his muse and future lover. "Because I dream, I am..." Leolo reiterates throughout this bitter-sweet tale of a bright mind besieged by the inequities of life. While punctuated with hilarious episodes of mock-heroism, and scored by a delightful Tom Waits soundtrack, the film subtly reveals the brutalities that imperil Leo's comming of age. While we hope, with the protagonist, that art can triumph over the hardships of life, the film refuses the sadder-but-wiser narratives of redemption that usually underpin this genre. The innoscence and wisdom of a child's perspective is relayed in all of its precariousness. If you liked "My Life as a Dog," "400 Blows," or "Slingshot," this film will blow you away! More bitter than sweet, "Leolo" is a comming of age story that dares to question the faith we put in the creative individual to convert our collective social failures into the necessary conditions of art. In doing so, it eloquently evokes the beauty and the danger born of an impulse to fight with no recourse but mental flight. "Leolo" employs the conventions of magic realism while staying firmly within a recognizable universe. And while it crafts its characters with humor it neither patronizes nor lampoons them. The film's true brilliance is its ability to convey the devastating limitations imposed upon its young hero by an unfortunate and uncomprehending family, while all along betraying their plight as similarly epic and heart-wrenching. "Leolo" will haunt you long after you turn off the VCR.
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on February 23, 1999
An extraordinary black comedy set in Montreal. Leolo (a manufactured name) is a just slightly pre-pubescent boy who claims that only his dreams are sane and that he is the product of a very offbeat conception between an imported tomato and his mother. Trying to find his own reality, the main character narrates us into a surrealistic and somehow disturbing but yet very funny working of this his mind. As the young man begins to experience his own sexuality, we begin to see bits of reference to Phillip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint and with a film style which pays deference to Louis Malle's works, we become transported into a richly woven fabric of life in the blue collar neighborhood of Montreal. Beautifully acted, with a very good film score and the characteristic high quality of the "National Film Board of Canada" releases, Leolo is highly recommended to those who enjoy black comedy and fine cinema. English subtitles.
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on July 26, 2002
This is a rare and brilliant film. It is told through the eyes of Leo Lauzon, a young adolescent boy living in Montreal. His life and that of his family are so squalid and disconcerting that Leo lives inside his colorful head by means of a vivid imagination. He creates fantastical stories because the alternative can not be true.
It is both a Drama and a Comedy, and the two go together seamlessly. It will have people laughing and feeling sad at the same time. Unlike other black comedies this one stays honest and completely believable. The film has a message that isn't simply shock, and everything is presented in it's natural duality. Everthing has it's cause and effect, and these are displayed unflinchingly. This movie goes full circle in a way that few can muster, highly recommended.
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on April 3, 2001
Leolo is one of the most provocative films I have ever seen. It will leave your mind reeling for days. It is a richly layered affair that is almost impossible to describe...part black comedy, part allegory, part tragedy. It challenges viewers emotionally, intellectually, and artistically. I have never cried at the end of a film, certainly never at some manipulative Hollywood tearjerker - but the closing images of the tamer, in his candle lit abode, left me in such emotional tumult that I shed a few tears. If you are a true lover of art films, especially francophone cinema, you will find this to be an undiscovered gem. The emotional palette of this work is oddly similar to Claude Sautet's Un coeur en hiver...but that is a much different movie.
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on June 30, 2004
Do not believe the boxcover that portrays this as a delightful comedy about sexual curiosity! Leolo is much darker than that.
Here we find a gritty life through the eyes of a youngster who happens to be a bit of a magical realist. Some moments are witty, such as the imagined story of his conception while others are downright awkward and painful.
What I liked best about the movie were the several thematic areas it covered in a symbolic and mythical fashion. It addresses an individual's and family's psychological disintegration, the status of the urban underclass, & sexuality. It also portrays the boy, leolo, as a sort of magical escapist messiah for his hopeless family.
Leolo also happens to be one of only two films I have seen where a piece of raw liver is violated. (warning for the squeemish) If you are in any way prudish, do avoid this film.
In summary, this is an excellent & deep film for viewing with friends if you care to stimulate a strong discussion.
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on May 2, 2001
This film, about a boy in French-Canada growing up in a family with twisted chromosomes, is stunning. The writing is beautiful, and the cinematography is both original and extraordinary. The movie's use of the soundtrack is both inventive and emotionally effective. I usually get offended by the use of emotional cue music, but in this case I'm feeling too much to notice. I have watched this movie at least 30 times, and I am still catching elements that I missed. This is extraordinarily hard to find, but it is well worth the effort. There is some disturbing imagery, but the reward is very high.
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on July 3, 2001
This movie is deffinetely 'outside the box' and a far cry from Hollywood formulas. One of the few movies to really get under my skin. A lovely dark comedy about a young boy following the familial tendency towards delussion, fantasy and ultimately insanity, beginning with his unbending belief that his was an immaculate conception - the result of his mother being impregnated by a lot of tomatoes infected with the sperm of an Italian farmer. The addition of the prose of Rejean Ducharme makes this film truely eloquent and poignant.
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on February 2, 1999
Leolo follows the childhood of Leo Lauzon through his twisted mind, from his imaginary conception by a semen-polluted tomato, to disturbing acts of bestiality. He lives in one of the most disfunctional families ever portrayed onscreen. This a marvelous surrealistic ride with powerful, provoking imagery, through the mind of a child.
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on January 31, 1999
This picture worked on so many levels for me. While it doesn't mirror my childhood, it is about growing up; realizing our families aren't how we would want them; coming to "grips" with puberty and the "first crush"; LEOLO is quirky, often outlandish, sometimes shocking and thoroughly enjoyable.
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