CANNES CLASSICS – Léolo, the other Montreal by Jean-Claude Lauzon

Jean-Claude Lauzon © RR

Léolo  is the portrait of the East side of Montreal, seen through the eyes of a little boy. Québécois director Jean-Claude Lauzon has filmed the insanity of urban poverty with humanity and realism. Léolo made its mark on the Festival de Cannes when it was first screened in Competition in 1992. Five years later, Jean-Claude Lauzon died in a plane crash. Cannes Classics will showcase this intimate film.


Photo from the film © RR

Léolo lives with his family in overcrowded conditions in a squalid district of Montreal. Little by little, he distances himself from his family, which is slipping into madness, with its members being admitted one by one to psychiatric wards. Léolo escapes from this misery as best he can, by romantically imagining that he has roots in Sicily, full of sunshine and light… He decides to write down the things in his life that inspire him and he becomes infatuated with one of his neighbours, who is Italian.

Lauzon was in Cannes once before, in 1987, for his film Night Zoo (Un Zoo la nuit). In this feature film, Lauzon narrated the despair and troubled mind of a former prison inmate who reunites with his father. Violence and love are two inseparable components in this Québécois director’s work. With the film Léolo, initially entitled Portrait d’un souvenir de famille, Lauzon wanted to film another side of Montreal, the Montreal of the poor, families that are mired down in poverty. In Léolo, Lauzon explores his own childhood memories. Through the dreamy eyes of this little boy, the director’s own recollections well up to the surface, opening a very tender rift. Lauzon said that this bitter-sweet film, reminiscent of the atmosphere of Federico Fellini’s Amarcord, is a tribute to his mother.






Elephant, la mémoire du film québécois has produced the restored version of this film, in 2k, from the original negative. The sound was restored by the Quebec Cinémathèque.


Hannah Benayoun


Thursday 15 May / Buñuel Theatre / 5 p.m

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