O Canada Blogathon: Léolo (Part 8 – Conclusion: The Ashes of Poetry)

Conclusion: The Ashes of Poetry

“Images and words must mix with the ashes of poetry to be born in Man’s imagination” is the Word Tamer’s philosophy and by extension it becomes the philosophy of this film. For within this film we are given images, dialogue and voice over and fragmented poetry, or perhaps better stated as free-flowing open-ended poetry. With this poetic opus burnt asunder it is left to our imagination to be born anew. And with the film being born anew in our imagination it lives on.

Prior to the Age of Video one of the biggest selling points that film had is that you paid the price of admission and all that you had when it was over was a memory. With as much as the world and the industry have changed that is still essentially the truth. Despite the fact that we can ceaselessly loop cinematic moments easily if we wish, the fact remains that it is in the hearts and minds of viewers where film is at its most vital.

With the pastiche of Léolo’s experiences and thoughts on display, with the way the narrative armature structures itself we know that there is more that could be told, but here we have been given the narrative distilled to its quintessence in his eyes. Now that that his ashen poetry has come our way it has room wherein to respawn if we so chose.

Léolo (1992, Fine Line Features)

Perhaps the most apt definition of the term masterpiece I ever saw anywhere was a work of art that had reached perfection in its form. In other words, to convey the thoughts and narrative that the piece was relating through another medium would render it moot, or at the very least not as effectual as its initial instance. It is by that standard that by which I can look at Léolo and state, for the first time, that it is to my mind a masterpiece (as that’s a word I’m leery of bandying about haphazardly). For to leave the beautiful poetry unadorned by images would leave it feeling limp and repetitive, to deprive the images of its dialogue, moreover its music (mostly sourced, but perfectly fitting nonetheless) would border on criminal. To strip the fluidity of time and place that film affords it over the stage would be to handicap it greatly. Perhaps, the only other suitable adaptation of a tale such as this would be a graphic novel – however, even if that could provide the unique layout and the gorgeous images this tale requires it would lack the kinetics and the refined grain of celluloid that gives this motion picture its signature. Staccato cuts could be replicated in drawing or underscored by music, but it’s the seemingly uninterrupted flow of moving visual information that gives this narrative its life, it form and the exactitude it needs to capture and convey the emotions desired.

Léolo (1992, Fine Line Features)

Surely, it takes a bit of magic and good fortune to capture lightning in a bottle the way this film did. However, that can be said of any great work art no matter how individual or collaborative it may be. Much like the missing piece of the Jacques Brel record Léo serendipitously finds in his house, I was not looking for this film when it came before my eyes for the first time – I may well not have known what it was called until I found it a second time. All I do know for certain is that I feel fortunate it found me.

Parce que je rêve, moi je ne le suis pas.

This post is part eight in a series. Parts one, two, three, four, five, six and seven can be found here. Stay tuned for the conclusion.


  1. Pingback: O Canada Blogathon: Oct. 9 Roundup | Silver Screenings
  2. Silver Screenings · October 9, 2014

    Wow! What an incredible series you’ve given us. I feel like I’ve learned a whole new way to appreciate film.

    Thank you SO MUCH for joining the blogathon and putting so much work into analyzing this remarkable film. It’s like you’ve presented a film studies class for free! 🙂

    • bernardovillela · October 9, 2014

      Wow, thank you! That is unquestionably the kindest comment I’ve ever received. It was made easier by having recently watched it anew and having a great amount of knowledge of the film int he first place.

      I definitely took the blogathon aspect fairly literally sprinting to get it done in time for the final round-up. Glad to have contributed to it. I’d like to say I’ll never go this crazy again, but maybe next time I’ll get a head start, LOL.

  3. kristina · October 10, 2014

    Yes that (silver screening’s comment) is how I feel too, couldn’t say it better. You really did a big thing here and I know people will want to see it now thanks to your series. Thank you so much for joining us and putting in so much work.

    • bernardovillela · October 10, 2014


      Thank you. Glad I saw that the blogathon was happening and jumped in.

  4. girlsdofilm · October 11, 2014

    I loved reading your series – it’s been an educational (and comprehensive) journey charting what I think is often a massively under-represented movie. It’s testament to its worth that Lauzon’s death doesn’t overshadow it, merely underscores its poignancy. I’m looking forward to (re)watching it with all your comments in mind – your enthusiasm and commitment has made me fall in love with it all over again!

    • bernardovillela · October 12, 2014

      Glad to hear it. I do agree though that among those who do know it Lauzon’s passing is viewed similarly, and not larger than the work itself. Hope you enjoy the revisit.

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