1992, 107 min. Directed by Jean-Claude Lauzon. Starring Maxime Collin, Ginette Reno, Julien Guiomar, Pierre Bourgault, Giuditta Del Vecchio.

REVIEWED By Hollis Chacona, Fri., May 28, 1993

Dreams are capricious things, as apt to menace as to amuse, and I don't know anyone who can claim to have tamed them. But writer/director Jean-Claude Lauzon has managed to capture one and put it on view for all to see. It's an adolescent's dream, an implosion of scent and sexuality, by turns awkwardly tender and brutally gross. Léo Lauzon (Collin), a 12-year-old French Canadian, is a Sicilian wannabe, so desperate to escape the squalor of his Montreal tenement and the curse of his demented family, he reinvents the world, from his own genesis (sprung from his mother's encounter with an inseminated Roma tomato) to his name (Léolo Lozone). While his sisters seem to surrender themselves to the relative peace of the mental hospital which his family frequents like some neighborhood bar, Léolo and his brother Fernand resist. Léolo seeks refuge in books, donning cap and mittens to read, surreptitiously, by the cold light of a half-opened refrigerator door, and in writing, incessantly scribbling his thoughts on paper. Fernand turns to bodybuilding, as though changing his physical self will somehow magically alter his persona. But though Fernand does change, and -- in the weird way of dreams -- actually becomes another person altogether, his burgeoning frame is matched by an inversely shrinking essence. Likewise, Léolo's perpetual writing, rather than a release, becomes a captor of a different sort, entombing his spirit forever within the pages of a spiral-bound notebook. The dream, at the outset an amusing if painful boyhood view of a family's eccentricities, turns nightmarish with all the carnal, savage play of a psyche that's slipped its leash. But what makes Léolo so remarkable is that it never descends into hallucinogenic rambling. Rather, it remains surreally coherent and we accept, as dreamers do, the replay of images, the warping of time, the segues of antithetical thought. It's a dream you can get lost in, but fascinating as it is, you'll look forward to daylight.

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