MARIANNE & LEONARD: WORDS OF LOVE
(director: Nick Broomfield; cinematographer: Barney Broomfield; editor: Marc Hoeferlin; music: Nick Laird-Clowes; cast: Helle Goldman, Richard Vick, Aviva Layton, Judy Collins, Julie Felix, John Simon, Ron Cornelius, Jan Christian Mollestad, Billy Donovan, Mary Macha, Don Lowe; Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Nick Broomfield, Marc Hoeferlin, Shani Hinton, Kyle Gibbon; Roadside Attractions; 2019)
“An insightful look at the relationship between the great late musician Leonard Cohen and his Norwegian muse Marianne Ihlen.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Veteran British documentary director Nick Broomfield (“Kurt & Courtney”/”Biggie & Tupac and Whitney: Can I Be Me?”) in his most personal documentary gives us an insightful look at the relationship between the great late Canadian musician Leonard Cohen and his Norwegian muse Marianne Ihlen. It takes a tender look on this love affair and does so with lots of archival material, including footage shot on Hydra.
The Greek island of Hydra was the place to be for a group of 1960 expat free-love artists and writers, who at that time were lured to the idyllic beaches by cheap living and by the availability of mind-expanding drugs.The free-spirits joined together to follow the mantra of the counter-culture to “turn on, tune in, and drop out.” In this casual bohemian setting an unknown aspiring songwriter Leonard Cohen met his lover and muse, the beautiful divorcee with a child, Marianne, whom he stayed with in Hydra until 1968.If you know his popular song “So Long, Marianne,” you know the story. But if you want more details, Nick Broomfield will give it to you in this endearing film.
Their fairy tale love affair worked in paradise, but when the struggling songwriter left the island for his hometown of Montreal things changed. Judy Collins recorded his “Suzanne” and it becomes a hit. When he sings it with her at a fundraiser, he becomes a future star and his relationship with his Hydra lady drastically changes. Even though he invites her to Montreal with her son, he cannot renew his love for her and instead chases after his music career. Soon he is no longer the struggling artist but a popular one, too busy to be with her. The romance simmers down to a friendship. But the relationship survived on and off, until their deaths — three months apart — in 2016.
Basically what the film does is chart their intense romance and rocky friendship from the onset of their initial meeting till their deaths.The lovers may have been hurt by a love that fades. It was a love to their regret that can’t be found by them again in anyone else, but their story resulted in some unbelievably good songs.
I’ve been a big Leonard Cohen fan forever and found the film a gem. It’s also curious that the director not only knew them both but he was on Hydra in 1968 and was briefly a lover of Marianne himself–considering her a muse for his film career.
REVIEWED ON 7/16/2019 GRADE: A-