Return to tiff.’s home page

Canadian Film Encyclopedia

Shopping Cart


Year: 1991
Language: French
Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 107 min
Director: Jean-Claude Lauzon
Producer: Lyse Lafontaine, Isabelle Fauvel, Aimée Danis, Jean-François Lepetit
Writer: Jean-Claude Lauzon
Cinematographer: Guy Dufaux
Editor: Michel Arcand
Sound: Hans Strobl
Music: Richard Grégoire
Narration: Gilbert Sicotte
Cast: Germain Houde, Pierre Bourgault, Andrée Lachapelle, Lorne Brass, Yves Montmarquette, Giuditta del Vecchio, Julien Guiomar, Ginette Reno, Maxime Collin, Denys Arcand
Production Company: Les Productions du Verseau, Flach Film

Brilliantly executed, Jean-Claude Lauzon's Léolo has been described by critics as one of the most original movies ever made in Canada. Léolo, a young boy growing up in the tenements and squalid courtyards of East Montreal, is surrounded by eccentricity and madness. He escapes into his world of dreams and obsessions — both the master and the victim of his swirling fantasies — a world embraced by the dictum "I dream therefore I am."

By weaving together Léolo's real and imaginary lives, Lauzon exhibits his unmistakable instinct for cinematic theatricality. Lauzon draws us into the maelstrom of Léolo's family: a father obsessed by the health of the family's bowels; a brother whose compulsive bodybuilding barely hides his fear of people; two sisters who spend more and more time in a psychiatric ward; and a grandfather who is held responsible for the genetic failure of the whole family. Only Léolo's mother is sane, sailing onward through the troubled waters.

Léolo, alienated but curious, inscribes his candid impressions of the world in a little notebook. In his imagination, he is the offspring of a tomato that carried the sperm of an Italian peasant. And in his dreams, Bianca, his beautiful Italian next-door neighbour, who is young and jaded, becomes his first sexual obsession. Eventually, Léolo puts away his childhood fantasies until years later when his dreams return to Bianca. Drawn forward by a white light, the now adult Léolo is led onto the stage of the ancient theatre at Taormina where Bianca awaits, singing sweetly in the glow of the setting sun.

Léolo's audacity, joie de vivre and humour are heightened by the marvellous, bizarre and erotic turns on the nature of madness and fantasy. The film opened the 1992 Festival of Festivals in Toronto.