1992 Video Interview: Leonard Cohen On Autos, America, & Apocalyptic Dancing

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French Farrago Falls Short Of Aspirations Of Grandeur But Succeeds As Platform For Cohen

This two-part video originally broadcast on French TV (identified in the YouTube introduction as “most probably made during the 1993 tour” and on the YouTube video title as “1991 French TV report” but more likely the 1992 Megamix program shown on the French  M6 Network1 ) is a 17 minute, 19 second pastiche that includes segments of an interview with Leonard Cohen (in English with French subtitles), taped musical performances by Cohen (with backup singers, Perla Batalla, and Julie Christensen), a recording of Cohen’s recitation of “The Genius” from “The Spice-Box of Earth,” home movies of Cohen’s childhood (featuring a young Leonard Cohen hell-bent on high velocity skiing and tricycle riding), views of Paris, Manhattan, and Berlin, portions of music videos, scenes from the offices of the French music magazine Les Inrockuptibles, a discussion (in French) of the I’m Your Fan tribute album by Christian Fevret of that periodical, fragments from documentary films featuring Leonard Cohen, and a cover of “Lovers, Lovers, Lovers” by Ian McCulloch.

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From my perspective, the structure of the program is as problematic as its massive, disparate content. The interweaving and overlapping of portions of musical performances with fractions of interviews detracts from both components. And some of the self-consciously stylistic elements, such as the series of  quick cuts between Cohen walking into the studio and through the studio’s hall to the interview room and the parallel takes of him walking through a hallway in the Dance Me To The End Of Love video are too banal to be evocative.

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Leonard Cohen walking to interview (left) and in music video (right)

Nonetheless, many of the individual components, such as the reading of the poem and the songs themselves,  are worthwhile and, as I’ve pointed out before, Leonard Cohen gives good interview.

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During this video, Cohen talks about the importance of his childhood spent under the care of his “kind,” Jewish parents, his view of songwriting a difficult task that keeps his efforts “fully employed,” the significance of his new-found (at the time of this interview) technique of writing songs with a synthesizer rather than, as had previously been the case, with a guitar, the robbery of the distinctiveness of cities by the automobile, and the assumption of of ones songs by a new generation of musicians as a gratifying continuation of the “apocalyptic dance.”

He also offers, perhaps at the interviewer’s specific request, a variation of his classic explanation of why he is not a pessimist:

I don’t consider myself a pessimist. I think of a pessimist as someone who is waiting for it to rain. And I feel soaked to the skin.

Especially striking are his conclusion that public expression lags behind and is less important than private experience and his well articulated conviction that art is an inadequate if popular substitute for religion.2

Leonard Cohen – French TV Interview 1992 (part 1)
Video from beautyandbeastvideo

 

Leonard Cohen – French TV Interview 1992 (part 2)
Video from beautyandbeastvideo

Note: Originally posted Jan 2, 2010 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

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  1. Diamonds In The Mine describes the 1992 Megamix show on Network M6, France as “TV spot looking at I’m Your Fan. It includes an interview with Leonard in Paris. Ian Mc Culloch sings Lover, Lover, Lover and Christian Fevret explains the genesis of the 1991 tribute LP I’m your Fan.” []
  2. I am reminded of congruent notions expressed by psychoanalytic thinkers in the 1950s and 1960s who warned that psychoanalysis was not a replacement for religion. []

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