Leon the Pig Farmer

This page contains various reviews of the movie "Leon the Pig Farmer", in which Mark Frankel played the role of Leon Geller. Below you will find the reviews as they were written... (hopefully) ..... as with any review, some are positive and some are negative.... Either way, we hope that in providing this information, you might find that your interest is peaked and you will seek out the movie and decide for yourself. If you have already seen it, perhaps you'll be interested to see which reviewers, if any, agree with your assessment.....

have YOU seen 'Leon the Pig Farmer'?
Did You like it?
Why?... why not??
We'd like to know what YOU think !


Friday, February 18, 1994

Take 2. Friday's Guide to Movies & Music. Movie review.

Johanna Steinmetz.

 Political correctness may have wiped out ethnic comedy in this country, but for those who still can laugh at cultural clashes, there is "Leon the Pig Farmer" from England, sort of a "Monty Python Goes Kosher."

 "Leon," with an impressive cast and a script commissioned by Python's Eric Idle, takes an old and serviceable fantasy-what if your parents (and therefore your heritage) turned out not to be your parents?-and gives it enough oddball turns to make it fresh and vastly amusing.

 Leon of the title is a young London man who is smothered by life, by his Orthodox Jewish family and its expectations, by the savage opportunism of his work in real estate, by the guilt that has him imagining that perfect strangers kibitz on his most intimate details.

 A woman he loves, who is Jewish, tells him she prefers her men to be adventurous ("boxers, tree surgeons"), which he is not. A woman he doesn't love, who isn't Jewish, is eager to seduce him upon learning he is. ("Daddy hates Jews," she croons in ecstacy.)

 His distorted psyche, expressed on film by tight camera angles and a deadpan acceptance of the peculiar, is about to implode when he discovers that his biological father is not Sydney Geller, a London draper, but Brian Chadwick, a Yorkshire pig farmer. He heads to Yorkshire, where the warmth of the Chadwicks' greeting and his culturally inherited aversion to pigs put him once more in conflict, but also on the road to self-discovery.

 Under the co-direction of young filmmakers Vadim Jean and Gary Sinyor, "Leon" occasionally belabors its own wit and ethnic self-consciousness. But, over all, with its unlikely combination of wackiness and Borscht Belt gags, it's the sprightliest comedy to come here from England since "A Fish Called Wanda."

 Although most of its humor is derived from the situation of being Jewish, the film is just as funny skewering WASPs. The Chadwicks, for example, are introduced as one big, happy, multiply divorced family.

 The film's later scenes are

 Local filmgoers will have to make an effort to see "Leon the Pig Farmer," whose screening schedule makes it as elusive as an endangered species. It is being shown three times at the Film Center of the Art Institute and twice at the Skokie Theater.


redeeming Jewish humor, does not conspicuously raise the success level. It begins when Mark Frankel's sweet, gawky Leon Geller is blasted out of his cozy North London orbit by the news that he is a test-tube baby. Not only that. It seems there was a mix-up. Instead of being the issue of the accumulated sperm of the man he has known as his father, it seems his biological father was a Yorkshire pig farmer named Brian Chadwick of Lower Dinthorpe.

 Leon was in enough trouble to begin with, having just resigned his real estate job rather than vandalize Charles Dickens' house by buying it as the centerpiece of a leisure complex, and getting less than nowhere with the cute girl next door, who finds him dull. He becomes even duller in her eyes by going to work for his mother's catering business. He meets an exciting woman (played by Maryam D'Abo, who seems best attuned to the high farcial attack the material demands) who specializes in stained glass Crucifixion portraits, adores him because he's Jewish and her father hates Jews, and pops him up on a cross to pose for her. But soon he finds himself hiding another secret. His father runs a net curtain business and, window-conscious creature that she is, she hates net curtains.

 Buckling under the mounting stress level, Leon bolts for Yorkshire, suffering from an identity crisis and determined to meet his real father. To his surprise, the Yorkshire family greets him warmly and starts turning Jewish as fast as they can, with the aid of "Portnoy's Complaint" and "The Joys of Yiddish." What should be the big comic set piece, when Leon's two families meet and each behaves as they think the other would, is painfully flat, though. And the film's big crossbreeding metaphor backfires.

 When Leon accidentally inseminates a pig with a hypodermic full of sheep semen, resulting in a half-pig, half-sheep, we're grateful we only hear it bleating and snorting and never have to see it. Is it kosher? That's the big issue as Conservative and Reform rabbis travel out to the countryside to give a look and decide. Certainly it can't be any more ungainly than the direction and the script, which seem dedicated to proving once and for all that livestock and identity crises don't mix. Better the film should have stuck with the Jewish humor, as when character wonder aloud why the kosher laws banned shellfish. "How often did the Jews find lobster in the desert?" he asks, like an Old Testament Neil Simon. Even when it isn't fresh, the Jewish humor is fresh, which is more than can be said for the tepid absurdism of "Leon the Pig Farmer."



Date Released: varies
Running Length: 1:42
Rated: NR (Sex, discreet nudity, mature themes)

 Starring: Mark Frankel, Janet Suzman, Brian Glover, Maryam D'Abo, Gina Bellman, Connie Booth
Directors: Gary Sinyor and Vadim Jean
Producers: Gary Sinyor and Vadim Jean
Screenplay: Gary Sinyor and Michael Normand
Music: John Murphy and David Hughes
Released by Cinevista

British humor is often at its peak when it mixes droll wit with Monty Pythonesque weirdness. This certainly isn't the perfect fare for mainstream America, but for those who enjoy a touch of the bizarre with their laughter, Leon the Pig Farmer makes an excellent one-hundred minute diversion. Leon Geller (Mark Frankel) has reached a crisis point in his life. Dissatisfied with the lying and cheating inherent in his job as a London real estate agent, he quits. Frustrated with the futility of establishing a romantic relationship with his best friend, Lisa (Gina Bellman), Leon shocks his very proper Jewish family by engaging in a torrid affair with the non-Jewish Madeleine (Maryam D'Abo), whom he meets after nearly running her over with his car. Then, to cap off his troubles, Leon learns that he is the product of artificial insemination, and that the sperm bank mixed up the test tubes. His actual father is Brian Chadwick (Brian Glover) -- a pig farmer in Lower Dinthorpe. Leon the Pig Farmer is a singularly entertaining motion picture. Its co-directors, Gary Sinyor and Vadim Jean, have paced the film effectively (until the very end, when everything sputters to an abrupt halt). The humor is spread around evenly, avoiding long periods of stagnation between the funny parts. There's a substantial dash of the unusual in Leon's comedy -- the sort of material that brings to mind Monty Python or Black Adder. The unexpected is often the greatest asset of such offbeat fare - and it's present in abundance. How many women will invite a man to their apartment for a cup of tea after nearly getting run down in the s treet by that person? How many times do strangers approach someone to give advice on intimate matters? And how often does the biological father of a kosher Jew turn out to be a pig farmer? As enjoyable as all this zaniness is, there's a none-to- subtle message to go along with it about being true to oneself. The directors don't have an axe to grind, but they offer this for those who want substance amidst the silliness. The cast contains a number of well-respected British actors, including Brian Glover and Janet Suzman. Known primarily for dramatic roles, these two give wonderful comic turns, proving that Leslie Nielsen isn't the only one who can put a staid reputation to good use. Maryam D'Abo is marvellous as the manic Madeleine, and hers is easily the standout performance. Mark Frankel, who plays Leon, sometimes overacts his role (especially when he's around pigs), but he generally displays a good knack for comedy. Connie Booth, a veteran of BBC comedy, including Monty Python and Fawlty Towers (which she co-created with then-husband John Cleese), has a supporting part. It's easy to see why Leon has been such a hit on the film festival circuit over the past year. It's a thoroughly charming movie in the same vein as another little-known British comedy, Getting it Right. Don't let the title put you off -- pigs or not, Leon is a charmer.

A film review by PHIL HERRING


 Written by Gary Sinyor and Vadim Jean
Directed by Vadim Jean and Gary Sinyor
Actors: Mark Frankel, Janet Suzman, Brian Glover, David de Keyser, Maryam d'Abo, Gina Bellman, Connie Booth

 Aren't Jews all inclined to feel guilt, feel sick at the sight of non-kosher food, and know what every other Jew in the world is up to? Stereotypes can be damaging, but they do seem to form the basis for lots of humor and comic characterization.

 And the stereotype is the premise of this film. Leon is Jewish, born into an upper-middle-class family in Golder's Green, London, son of a curtain salesman, but alas, too scrupulous to remain in his job as a real estate agent. He quits at a bad time--under pressure from his family to procreate, and more than a little neurotic about women, he finds himself in a minor crisis when he discovers by accident that he is the product of artificial insemination, and his real father is-- here comes the big joke!--a Yorkshire pig farmer. So, in a search for his real roots (whatever they might be), he heads off to visit his new-found parent. He turns out to be more than willing to take him in, and treats him as one of his own, but is far from stereotypical; in fact he tries to make him more at home by becoming even more Jewish than Leon's family.

 This is an enjoyable film, but the laughs are not tightly packed together. Instead, it's a rather lightweight experience; fun, but not funny. There are some genuine "moments" but they tend to be a tad obvious, being based, as they are, on well-explored ideas. This is not helped by the film's use of very Allen-esque details--such as the strangers offering unasked-for advice, the neurotic mother and father, and the sweetheart who wants rather more than Leon can provide.

 There are also one or two minor problems (not the least being what to do with Connie Booth's accent--if she's married to a Yorkshire pig farmer, why does she have a North American accent?), but hey, I enjoyed it, and although the basic ideas get pushed rather far than they should be (at times the film bogs down, usually when dealing with plot logic, as if the writers were keen to get to the next funny bit and didn't want to try too hard at the point), they at least have an original setting. The film also contains a clear metaphor for Leon's dilemma - I'll leave you to work out what it is--that serves to inject a bit more into the story than it would otherwise have.

 Overall, it's a good film, but not one I'd go out of my way to see again.

July 15, 1994

Stephen Holden


1993. Fox Lorber. $89.98 98 minutes. No rating.

 Never quite comfortable with his position in high-powered London Jewish society, Leon Geller (Mark Frankel) looks for his real roots and discovers that through a mix-up during artificial insemination he is really the son of a pig farmer named Brian Chadwick of Lower Dinthorpe, Yorkshire. Brian, a gentle, open fellow, and his wife, Yvonne, ply Leon with chicken soup and try to think Jewish by reading "Portnoy's Complaint" and "The Joy of Yiddish". In this vein, Vadim Jean and Gary Sinyor's satire has it's witty moments, but the joke is "far from uproarious because of the deadpan absurdist style in which it's told".

Copyright Critic's Choice 1993

LEON THE PIG FARMER ------ ** (2 stars)
Critic: Paul Brenner

 DIRECTOR: Vadim Jean & Gary Sinyor
CAST: Mark Frankel, Janet Suzman, Brain Glover,
Connie Booth, David de Keyser, Maryam d'Abo, Gina Bellman
PRODUCER: Gary Sinyor, Vadim Jean, Paul Brooks,
David Altschuler, Howard Kitchner, Steven Margolis
SCRIPT: Gary Sinyor & Michael Norman
GENRE: Comedy - N/R

 "Leon, the Pig Farmer" is a good-natured British ethnic comedy, done in a broad-mannered, Thames sitcom turn, hampered by a weak script and uneven pacing. The Jew/Gentile jokes that make up the bulk of the film wear out their welcome fast and the film becomes a bore rather than a pig.

 The film concerns Leon Geller (Mark Frankel), who discovers himself to be a by-product of artificial insemination. As if that weren't enough, he finds to his shock, that , due to a snafu at the insemination center, his Jewish father was not the donor but, instead, a gentile pig farmer by the name of Brian Chadwick (Brian Glover). When Leon travels to Yorkshire to visit his new father, Chadwick is so overjoyed at seeing him that he permits Leon to help out on the farm. Leon mistakenly injecting sheep sperm into a pig, finds himself to be the midwife to a living and breathing kosher pig.

 The sheer looniness of the film's premise is exhilarating, but the film meanders in Leon's London digs foe an interminable length of time, dwelling upon stereotypical Jewish jokes so hoary that they must have seemed old hat to Shecky Green's grandmother. It is only when Leon ventures to the Yorkshire pig farm that the film generates a farcical head of steam. Brian Glover and Connie Booth glow with a rich comedic sense and they chomp down on the premise and run with it. Their sense of the sublimely ridiculous is a welcome relief from the pop-eyed mugging seen up to that point and Glover and Booth trot away with the film.

 The production, direction, and writing credentials are traded off like the old Laurel and Hardy hat bit among Gary Sinyor, Vadim Jean, and Michael Norman, leading one to suspect that "Leon, the Pig Farmer" suffers from too many creative minds hopping aboard a rickety chassis. What with the loose-limbed structure, sluggard editing, and disjointed screenplay, the film's sole triumph is one of gentile faceurs than the production team. At least with an old "When You're in Love, the Whole World's Jewish" album, you can always flip to the other side of the record.

November 5, 1993


 After discovering that he started life as a test-tube baby, a young Londoner learns that his biological father is not the Jewish manufacturer he grew up with, but a rough-and-ready animal breeder who's all too eager to instruct his new-found son in the mysteries of pig farming.

Directed by newcomers Vadim Jean and Gary Sinyor, this British comedy has an offbeat sense of humor and a commendable skepticism about stereotypes of class and religion; but it isn't clever or consistent enough to be called a success. (Not rated)

Friday, December 17, 1993


 'Pig Farmer' roots about in low comedy
Jay Carr, Globe Staff



 Directed by : Vadim Jean and Gary Sinyor
Screenplay by: Sinyor, Michael Normand
Starring: Mark Frankel, Janet Suzman, Brian Glover, Connie Booth, David De Keyser, Maryam D'Abo, Gina Bellman

 Playing at: Coolidge Corner Moviehouse


Sperm-bank comedies have not been among the most fruitful of genres, and "Leon the Pig Farmer," despite moments of

Friday, February 11, 1994


Fred Haeseker

 One-joke movie more like a Monty Python sketch

 Rating *** = out of 5

 Leon the Pig Farmer is a one-joke movie, but it's amazing how far and deep that single joke is made to stretch.

 It tells the story of a 30-ish London real-estate agent who sticks faithfully to his Jewish faith and traditions, but is nevertheless a disappointment to his immense extended family.

 Leon Geller (Mark Frankel) has not yet fathered any children or even married. His ethics force him to quit his job; Lisa (Gina Bellman), the nice Jewish girl with whom it's hoped he'll settle down, yearns for someone more exciting and adventurous.

 Leon is clearly ripe for an existential crisis, and it happens. As he marks time making deliveries for the kosher catering service run by his mother (Janet Suzman), he accidentally makes a startling discovery. He finds out that-because of a low-sperm count-his father (David De Keyser) took part in an artificial-insemination program.

 When Leon visits the AI clinic to check out his own sperm count, he is told apologetically that there was a mix-up in the test tubes 30 years ago.

 His biological father, it turns out, is not Sidney the net-curtain king of St. John's Wood but Brian Chadwick, a pig farmer of Lower Dinthorpe, Yorkshire.

 Leon drives off to the North Country to explore the goyish part of his heritage and finds the Chadwicks more than hospitable.

 As Leon struggles to overcome generations of negative feelings about swine, Brian (Brian Glover) explores the subtleties of Yiddish (filtered through a Yorkshire accent, "schmuck" comes out "schmook") while his wife Yvonne (Connie Booth of Fawlty Towers) works hard at cooking the perfect chicken soup.

 First-time producer-directors Gary Sinyor and Vadim Jean show little visual sophistication, but draw fine comic performances from a talented ensemble cast.

 Mark Frankel is a charming straight man and Maryam D'Abo is wonderfully flaky as a free-spirited gentile stained-glass artist who-unlike Lisa-finds Leon exciting simply because he's Jewish. (It's the intensity, she explains.)

 By staying in the casual key of the shaggy dog story-the film plays an expanded Monty Python sketch cooked up in a kosher-Leon the Pig Farmer is able to touch lightly (but sharply) on a number of complex issues, like the essence of being Jewish, which Leon believes lies in guilt.

 Another complex matter is the possibility of producing kosher pork by means of artificial insemination-something that gives Brian the horrors because it involves cross-breeding. But that's another story.

Back to the 'Leon the Pig Farmer' Reviews List
Back to the 'Reviews' Reference Room
Back to the Library's Reference Room
Back to the Fanclub pages