Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love
Nick Broomfield, Marianne Ihlen, Leonard Cohen
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…poignant and moving…
The estimable documentarian Nick Broomfield has made many films, but probably no other in which he has had such a direct connection to the story. Broomfield met the titular Marianne Ihlen on the (idyllic) Greek island of Hydra in 1968, was briefly one of her lovers, she gave him his first acid trip…
Still, this doco is of course centrally about Ihlen – of “So Long Marianne” fame – and Leonard Cohen. They got together on Hydra in 1960, and were part of a floating and freewheeling community of expatriate artists and other bohemians. Very few marriages survived the open version that dominated there, and fewer still were the children of those marriages who emerged unscathed. In Ihlen’s own words “I was his Greek muse, who sat at his feet”. (Though in the prosaically literal sense she was actually Norwegian.)
The focus broadens beyond Hydra, and we see assorted footage both from Cohen’s early life in Montreal and from various points in his subsequent and stellar career. There are anecdotes about life on tour – most notably about Cohen’s penchant for playing gigs in mental hospitals – as well as on-road excesses and the manic bizarreness of recording “Death Of A Ladies’ Man” with Phil Spector producing… What comes across most clearly and sadly is that as Leonard Cohen’s star rose, his erstwhile and original muse was increasingly marginalised.
Poor Marianne! As Cohen himself put it, she was among “the precious ones I overthrew for an education in the world”. Ultimately this film is poignant and moving.