A masterpiece. Set in the 1950’s and early 60’s in a teeming slum of Montreal (the film is in French with subtitles) this magical yet realistic and poetic autobiographical film about childhood was directed by Jean-Claude Lauzon who died in a plane crash in 1997, that he was piloting. This was only his 2nd film. By all accounts Lauzon was a troubled and difficult man, and it is said that he lost his chance of winning the Palm d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for Leolo because he made a crude sexual advance towards Jamie Lee Curtis who was one of the judges that year. That may be, but happily we still have this beautiful yet difficult film to cherish. The movie concerns the troubled childhood of Leo Lauzon, who tells everyone to call him Leolo Lozone because he has this wild idea that he is Sicilian and was born when his mother became pregnant by a tomato filled with the sperm of an Italian farmer, how the sperm got into the tomato is shown in a scene that opens this fantastical film. The whole movie is a mixture of damp, deep and dirty realism with large dollops of fantasy and magic and after all weren’t all our childhoods somewhat like that? Leolo’s family has big mental health and dysfunctional problems which at one point in heartbreaking scenes lands the entire large family in the local mental hospital. Leolo who is a brilliant and talented boy fills notebooks with his poetic writings about his family, but has only one book to read, left by a mysterious old man called the Word Tamer who lives in a strange house filled with books and objects of art who encourages Leolo in his writings, and who comes and goes throughout the film like a poetic ghost. Also living in the cramped apartment are Leolo’s two troubled sisters one who is obese and tends to hang out in the basement obsessively brushing her surrounded by her large collection of insects, and a bullied older brother who takes up strenuous weight lifting in order to protect himself from the neighborhood bully but as Leolo in voice over says when his brother is once again beaten up "That day I understood that fear lived in our deepest being, and that a mountain of muscles or a thousand soldiers couldn't change a thing." There is also the randy grandfather who lusts after the beautiful young Sicilian girl living next door, and who Leolo blames for his family’s mental disorders. Both grandfather and grandson try to kill each other off in several offbeat and somewhat shocking scenes. Then there is the mother, overweight, a portable moving mountain, loving, warm and the only member of the family who doesn’t fall into mental disarray, wonderfully played by the great Ginette Reno. Some might find several of the scenes and images off putting (there are a number of scatological sequences and some sexual episodes including one with a piece of raw liver and another involving a cat, but as I said this is a damp, deep and dirty film with large portions of humor and sadness. The performances are all wonderful especially that of Maxime Collin who fearlessly and endearingly plays Leolo. Also of note is the eclectic musical soundtrack that includes Tibetan chants, Tom Waits and the Rolling Stones. One of the ten best films of 1992.