Léolo

Don't mistake this spellbinder from Canadian writer-director Jean-Claude Lauzon for a childhood lark The film opens with a dirty old man in Sicily jerking off into a stack of tomatoes, which are shipped to Montreal, where they spill from their crate. After a woman (Ginette Reno) trips and falls on them, a doctor removes a sperm-covered fruit from her vagina. Too late, she's pregnant. Anyway, that's how twelve-year-old Léolo (Maxime Collin) imagines he was born an Italian trapped in a dysfunctional family of French Canadians.

Mom and Dad are obsessed with bowel movements, Léolo's bodybuilder brother is a coward, his sisters are certifiable, and his sadistic grandfather, whom Léolo tries to kill, hires a young girl to sit in his tub and chew on his toenails. The boy escapes through fantasy and writing. For all its perversity and piercing wit, Léolo emerges as a lyrical film of surprising warmth. Lauzon is a talent to watch.

From The Archives Issue 654: April 15, 1993