Opening 17 Nov 2022
Leonard Cohen (1934-2016) was a Canadian singer and song writer. He was also an artist and a writer, a philosopher, and a poet. The film opens with Cohen’s last concert on December 21, 2013. It then takes us through Cohen’s biography, resourcing archives as well as interviews with about 20 people who enjoyed different relationships with him. We learn about his many notebooks in which he wrote texts of songs, as well as poems and fiction. Two of the books he published were Beautiful Losers in 1966 as well as poetry in Book of Mercy in 2010. He began writing songs at age 30 and was interviewed by Adrienne Clarkson for the first time at age 32 in New York City.
In the beginning he seemed to be more popular touring Europe than the USA. His album Various Positions, which came out in England in 1984, featured his song “Hallelujah.” He said it took him five years and 150 verses to achieve a final version of the song. He was working for Columbia Records which wasn’t too impressed, so that “Hallelujah” came out in the USA two years later in 1986 on a smaller label. Strange to believe that “Hallelujah” did not cause much enthusiasm originally. It was later in 1991 that it became a world hit, when John Cale presented a version, as did Jeff Buckley in 1995. And then came versions by Bob Dylan, Brandi Carlile, and Bono. Rufus Wainwright sang it for the animated film Shrek (2001). Cohen said that “Art has to explain itself.” In 1994 Cohen moved into the Mount Baldy Zen Center located in the mountains north of Los Angeles, for six years of seclusion.
The film centers on Cohen’s career with little information about his personal life. He grew up in Westmount, Quebec. His father died when Leonard was nine years old. Cohen moved to the United States in 1967. We meet his rabbi Dr. Morgen Finky, who said that his songs felt “cinematic.”
In the film’s 115 minutes we learn so much about the talented Leonard Cohen, while enjoying every minute of his songs. We leave the cinema singing. Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song premiered at the Venice Film Festival 2021. (Becky Tan)