‘Léolo’, the fantasy of baroque cinema

‘Léolo’ tells the story of a young boy named Léo ‘Léolo’ Lauzon, played by Maxime Collin, who engages in an active fantasy life while growing up with his Montreal family, and begins to have sexual fantasies about his neighbour Bianca, played by Giuditta del Vecchio.

Initially released in the 1992 Cannes Film Festival, Léolo won three Genie Awards, including Best Original Screenplay for Lauzon, losing Best Motion Picture to Naked Lunch.

Léolo is a 1992 French Canadian movie released in Quebec in the summer of 1992. The film was entered in various prestigious festivals. In Cannes it was a nominee for la Palme d’Or, and at the Toronto International Film Festival TIFF it won The Best Canadian Feature Film. The film also won multiple awards at the Genie Awards and at the Fantasporto Film Festival in Portugal.

Léolo is a fantasy coming of age movie set in a working-class inner-city neighborhood of Montréal in the 1950s. The picture is an exercise in style and imagination, with vivid colors, surreal and hyperreal scenery, and enchanting music.

Despite being a fantasy baroque movie, the picture portrays a cultural perspective with a historical social basis; it can be interpreted as a reflection of the low self-esteem complex that many French Canadians had for a long time, a complex that was very present before ‘The Quiet Revolution’, which is the context of the story.

Several facts can support this interpretation: firstly, Léolo Lauzon, the main character, who is a pre-teen who lives with his dysfunctional family in Montreal, although he is French Canadian, he calls himself (in his imaginary world) “Leolo Lozone” pretending he is Italian, just like some of his working-class neighbors. He sees the world around him (including his family members) not as a Quebecers but as Italian immigrants, which is more “significant and attractive” for him.

Secondly, Léolo’s brother (Fernand) is terribly afraid of an English-speaking youngster who bullies him every time they see each other in the streets. It does not matter how much Fernand prepares himself to face this English-speaking Montrealer, he always falls apart when he is confronted by him.

And lastly, the inspiration of the movie is a book titled L’Avalée des avalés (The Swallower Swallowed in English) written by Réjean Ducharme, which is considered a classic of Quebec literature. This is a novel about the search for an identity, daydreaming and the need to create a different social reality. L’Avalée des avalés is the book that Léolo uses to fantasize his life and to escape the boundaries of the misery surrounding him.

Léolo is a movie that masterfully blends style, psychology, and imagination with social realism on his basis. Arguably, this film has created one of the most interesting and imaginative young characters in cinematic history. This is a must-see movie.

Original title: Léolo
Release date: 1992
Directed by: Jean-Claude Lauzon
Written by: Jean-Claude Lauzon
Starring: Gilbert Sicotte, Maxime Collin, Ginette Reno, Giuditta del Vecchio, Julien Guiomar

Xphilo Liranzo
Journalist, freelance writer. Born in the Dominican Republic, lives in Toronto since 2016 and previously lived in Montréal for two years. Film analyst, novelist, author of two novels in process of editing. He writes reviews of movies, books, and music albums. He is also interested in psychology, sociology, neuroscience, history, sports, health, and well-being. He has some experience in filmmaking (directing and as a screenwriter). Passionate about languages, he is fluent in English, French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. He is also able to read and speak German (intermediate level) and Mandarin (Basic level). You can find most of his articles and reviews on his website: