Good thing I put off writing this post until 2 a.,m. Ah well, I don't have to really wake up early tomorrow or anything. I went out with Anthony to see Contagion today - I loved it! I almost applied to work on it as an internship, but never did for some reason. That was a really bad choice. I sort of wish I was writing about that movie, but I'm here to write about what else I watched today. After I came home from some an exciting search for a canning rack (none were found), I watched Leolo, directed Jean-Claude Lauzon in 1992.
It's a strange film, sort of darkly comedic, which I love. In his essay, Ebert mentioned that this director only made two films before he tragically died in plane crash. I felt pretty sad after reading that, because I really enjoyed his style and storytelling ability. This movie looks amazing, has a really interesting and weird plot, and off-beat, strange comedy. I wasn't expecting to love it as much as I did. I was pretty weirded out by it at first, but it really grew on me.
The film is about Leo, a young boy growing up in Montreal. He lives with is insane (literally) family, who claim that their madness comes from the grandfather. Leo pretends he isn't related to them, born via some strange tomato-based accident, his real name is Leolo. He escapes from his life with his imaginative and wonderful writing. He's not a typical movie kid - he is suffering, tortured, confused - which makes him awesome in my book. The film is a great blend of reality and fantasy, and full of strange things as Leolo explores the world around him and his own sexuality.
The film reminded me a tiny bit of something by Todd Solondz. Not a lot - just something about the dark humor was just disturbing enough to make me think of him. Some things are shocking or gross, even upsetting, but they're still funny. Leolo learns about masturbation using a piece of raw meat. Gross. Also kind of hilarious. His crazy grandfather likes to have other people trim his toenails with his teeth. Disgusting! Leolo tries to hang his grandfather while he bathes, but it's ok, we sort of reason, because the grandfather tried to drown Leolo in a kiddie pool many years ago. Ebert writes that the director is able to make characters that are grotesque but still get our sympathy and attention. I couldn't agree more. Even if they do horrible things or strange things, we still like them, or at least feel for them. It's quite a feat.
I think it's pretty amazing that the director managed to keep things so weird but so easy to watch. He sort of flits between different incidents and experiences, all of them narrated by Leolo's journals, I assumed. The movie moves fluidly between fantasy and reality, but it never lost me or got too hard to follow. The narration does a great job of keeping everything together and giving us a map through all of the crazy we encounter. Plus, the film is very cool looking on top of all that. It's got neat colors and saturation, and lots of really interesting little details. And the soundtrack! Everything from classic rock to weird chanting. It never feels like it doesn't work, though - he somehow manages to string all these things together in a way that just...works.
And often, I noticed, beneath all of the crazy and strange things that go on, sometimes there are some really meaningful thoughts and realizations. In one little story, we see that Leolo's brother is always being bullied. Determined to end it, the brother starts working out all the time and bulks up. Later, he encounters the bully again - a scrawny, sickly-looking guy. The brother clearly has the advantage. As soon as the bully advances on him, though, he can't fight back. "That day," Leolo, I presume, muses, "I understood that fear lived in our deepest being." So true. We can physically change, but it takes much more work to emotionally change, to work through what really scares us. Good stuff, right?
The whole movie is really interesting and strange. I can imagine that some people who don't like gross or dark humor might be put off by this movie, so be warned, I guess. I really like that, though, and it was excellent here. It sounds like a really crazy movie, and at first I thought it would be way too weird to like, but it just comes together really well and works. It's worth checking out if you want to see something really unique and different.
Have any thoughts on Leolo? Share them in the comments!
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Leolo