Toto the Hero

"Extraordinary"

Toto the Hero Review


Foreign art films are mostly appreciated by a small group of patrons and critics who like almost all foreign films, from The Rules of the Game right down to travesties like Blow-Up, and barely discriminate between a masterpiece and a skin flick. Meanwhile, mainstream audiences continue to ignore other European films. This is a shame, because a lot of European directors - well, at least a few - are making films that outshine American attempts in every genre.

With Toto the Hero, aka Toto Le Heros, Belgian newcomer Jaco van Dormael created a whimsical and disturbing debut that was Belgium's biggest international hit to date. Toto Le Heros is a celebration of the absurd, a meditation on the eternal return, Back to the Future with a European sensibilite. What else can you say about a movie that makes obsessive love for one's sister, fantasies of murdering a rival, a life spent alone, and shoplifting and setting fire to buildings all seem sweet as an afternoon picnic?

Toto Le Heros is based on Van Dormael's belief that "we become what we never thought we would become, and we end in a way we never thought we would end." The protagonist, Thomas van Haserbroek, is seen in boyhood (Thomas Godet, whose earnest innocence was a welcome respite after the Culkin vehicles), midlife (Jo De Backer) and old age (Michel Bouquet); he matures but never entirely grows up, he knows true happiness and is cheated out of it. Throughout, Van Dormael's film subtly manipulates the audience, reminding us that fate is a cruel bastard, but the world is still a heckuva place.

After the death of their father (which traumatizes their mother), Thomas' intimacy with his beloved, astute older sister Alice (the winning Sandrine Blancke) becomes the focal point of his life, a love that evolves through their lives and alteregos. Following Van Dormael's axiom, the ending is an amalgam of trumpet lessons, livestock, Belgians in foreplay, and other recurring motifs in which van Haserbroek perishes in flames and laughter, his life simultaneously all-important and insignificant as a dust mite. Through it all plays a puerile bathtub chanson about how great it is to be in love.

Despite a few obscure plot turns (which are too deeply ingrained in European cinema to avoid), Toto Le Heros shines with dreamlike romanticism and wit. Life is brief and absurd. Love, which rides away in the back of a truck toward the end of the movie, must be seized despite its contradictions: tacky but comforting, everpresent but uncontrollable. Nihilistic but not cynical - tragic and funny - Toto flashes before our eyes life's most memorable feelings, from the playground to the grave. It is fashionable in Europe (and elsewhere) to believe that life signifies nothing; but even as it pokes absurdity and meaninglessness in your face, Toto Le Heros offers plenty of reasons to live.



Toto the Hero

Facts and Figures

Run time: 91 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 19th June 1991

Production compaines: Iblis Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Fresh: 8 Rotten: 1

IMDB: 7.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Thomas, as an old man, as Evelyne as an old woman, as Thomas, as an adult, as Evelyne as young woman

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Life Movie Review

Life Movie Review

Like a mash-up of Alien and Gravity, this ripping sci-fi horror movie is very effective...

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

Based on a true story, it's the historical aspect of these events that holds the...

Chips Movie Review

Chips Movie Review

It's clear from the very start that this movie has little to do with the...

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

This remake of Disney's 1991 classic is remarkably faithful, using present-day digital animation effects to...

The Salesman Movie Review

The Salesman Movie Review

Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi won his second Oscar with this astute drama which, like 2011's...

Get Out Movie Review

Get Out Movie Review

Leave it to a comedian to make one of the scariest movies in recent memory....

Personal Shopper Movie Review

Personal Shopper Movie Review

After winning a series of major awards for her role in Olivier Assayas' Clouds of...

Advertisement
Certain Women Movie Review

Certain Women Movie Review

In films like Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, writer-director Kelly Reichardt has told sharply...

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

After the success of 2014's Godzilla reboot, the Warner Bros monsters get their own franchise,...

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Filmmaker Gurinder Chada (Bend It Like Beckham) draws on her own family history to explore...

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

With an extra dose of attitude and energy, this Irish comedy-drama hits us like a...

Logan Movie Review

Logan Movie Review

Hugh Jackman returns to his signature role one last time (so he says), reuniting with...

Patriots Day Movie Review

Patriots Day Movie Review

The third time's a charm for Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, who previously teamed...

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

It's no surprise that this creep-out horror thriller is packed with whizzy visual invention, since...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.