The Phil Tetrault Documentary
“Picnic in the Park with Leonard Cohen” features Phil Tetrault and Leonard Cohen drinking and talking on a park bench in Montreal.
Some background information is helpful for first time viewers. This clip is an excerpt from “This Beggar’s Description,” a 2005 documentary about Phil Tetrault directed by his brother, Pierre Tetrault, and produced by the National Film Board of Canada. The film, which won the 2006 C.B.C. Newsworld Award for Best Documentary in the Independent Film and Video Festival, includes six of Cohen’s songs (Suzanne, If It Be Your Will, Guests, Partisan, Who By Fire, Anthem) on the soundtrack (none appear on the clip shown in this post).
Even in a city top-heavy with eccentric characters, Philip Tetrault stands out. He is a poet, painter and master of the pan flute. He is a friend to the famous and the infamous. He has lived among the well-heeled and the hobos. He is also diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
It’s not clear how Tetrault and Cohen met. Phil Tetrault’s daughter, photographer Amanda Tetrault, writes about their relationship:
I’m not sure how he ;Phil Tetrault] met Leonard Cohen but it was years ago in Montreal. Phil would be doing a poetry reading and Leonard would happen by on the street and come in. So they knew each other. He’s been really nice to Phil over the years, given him money. Phil gives him poetry1
Video: Leonard Cohen Reads A Phil Tetrault Poem, Boasts Of Besting Trudeau In Thumb Wrestling, Banters With His Buddy
It is an unanticipated delight to watch these two poets spend time together on a park bench in Montreal. Tetrault drinks beer and eats cheese curls and Cohen guzzles V8 while talking about topics that include an image in Tetrault’s poetry, Tetrault losing his toes to frostbite, Cohen’s suit, Kris Kristofferson’s appeal to women, and, of course, Cohen besting the Prime Minister of Canada in thumb wrestling.
From my perspective, the most striking aspect of this 9 minutes, 30 seconds of video is the unmistakable comfort and affection between these two men. In 25+ years working professionally with patients diagnosed with severe psychiatric disorders, I have found this degree of unreserved, unflinching acceptance beyond rare. Even family members, friends of many years, and spouses who genuinely care for men and women with these afflictions become wary of investing more energy in the relationship, embarrassed in the company of others, condescending, and anxiously uneasy in anticipation of potentially bizarre behavior. I make that observation not to disparage anyone but to emphasize the unusual graciousness Leonard Cohen displays, seemingly effortlessly, in this segment.
Picnic in the Park with Leonard Cohen
Video from a2zme
Phil Tetrault Recites His Poems In Montreal (2006)
Video from lewdite
Note: Originally posted Mar 20, 2010 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric