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The Love Story Between Leonard Cohen & His Muse Marianne

Opening today in the triangle at Silverspot Cinema in Chapel Hill, AMC CLASSIC Durham 15, and Regal North Hills 14 in Raleigh:

(Dir.
Nick Broomfield, 2019)
This
is a quite touching treatise on the on again off again relationship between
iconic poet/singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen and his lover/muse, Marianne Ihlen
(the subject of Cohen’s classic “So Long, Marianne”).

It’s
also the best film yet by documentarian Nick Broomfield, who, in some of his
films (AILEEN WUORNOS, KURT & COURTNEY, BIGGIE & TUPAK) has come off as
a twit.

Not
here, however, as he tenderly relays the Norwegian Marianne and the Canadian Leonard
meeting on the Greek island of Hydra in 1960, and how they immediately hit it
off. This is offset by Broomfield revealing that “for a short while, I became
one of her [Marianne’s] lovers.”

Marriane
and Leonard lived together for a bit, each feeding off the other’s self
conscious souls. Leonard began as a writer, an aspiring novelist, but didn’t
really make his mark until Judy Collins recorded his song “Suzanne.” Collins
persuaded him to overcome his stage fright and get onstage, and then, as Collins
says, “He was off to the races, Columbia signed him up, and was his label
forever.”

Meanwhile
Marianne deals with depression, loneliness, until she gets a telegram from
Leonard requesting she come to him with her son to the Montreal. From there,
they live in New York as Leonard’s star rises as we see via 1970 footage from the
Aix-en-Provence Festival in France, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, and the legendary
Isle of Wight Festival.

We
also get some anecdotal evidence as to how much of a ladies’ man Leonard was in
the ‘70s, while he still spent time with Marianne, and Suzanne Verdal, who
inspired the aforementioned song of the same name.

If
it seems as though I’m spending more time on Leonard than Marianne, it’s
because that’s what Broomfield does. Marianne seems to whittle away years in
Hydra, which is depicted throughout the film home movie-style as a beautiful
seaside and mountainside village, before she decides to go back home to Oslo,
Norway, and begin a normal life.

Leonard
goes into a monestary at the Mount Baldy Zen Center in California from 1994-1999,
but comes back to find that his trusted manager had embezzled millions from him
and he was broke. This made Leonard get back on stage to again make a living
and the shows were rousing successes (I saw him in Durham, NC, in 2009 and he
was magnificent).

Despite the couples imbalance, the film’s focus
is on their relationship and ends on a poignant note pertaining to Leonard’s
last love letter to Marianne received on her death bed in 2016; Leonard would
pass three months later.

MARIANNE & LEONARD is as moving as a documentary can get. It’s not as
poetic as the troubled people it portrays but it gets awful close to their
discomfort in making love last. By putting forth his most personal story yet,
Bloomfield seems closer to his subjects than in any of his previous works.


More later…