My choice for Best Of Show in the CBC archive of Leonard Cohen video interviews is On The Road To Singing Sensation, which was originally broadcast in conjunction with the publication of Cohen’s novel, “Beautiful Losers,” in 1966 on This Hour Has Seven Days.1
Beryl Fox – Interviewer
Cohen’s interviewer, Beryl Fox, was a pioneer in investigative reporting and as an accomplished documentary filmmaker. While working for the CBC, she was known for her insightful and critical examinations of U.S. politics, the feminist movement, and racial conflicts. She was also a groundbreaking critic of the role of the U.S. in the Vietnam War.2 She continued making documentaries and, later, feature films after leaving the CBC in 1966.
Accordingly, the interview is not a puff piece nor are her queries to Cohen softballs lobbed over the plate to make the star look good. The conversation is challenging, engaging, personal, and even edgy in a place or two.
In addition, there seems to be, especially on Ms Fox’s part, elements of sexual tension and flirtatiousness.3
Leonard Cohen exercises the poet’s prerogative of re-interpreting and manipulating her words and his own to distract and deflect. A trivial but nonetheless amusing example follows:
Leonard Cohen: I always had this feeling that new things were beginning, and I thought that I would change my name and get a tattoo.
Beryl Fox: Where?
Leonard Cohen: There’s this place on St. Lawrence Blvd.
The interviewer’s facial expression at that point is a bonus.
Cohen is provocative, claiming, for example, that Canada has no government and that any couple not in love should be divorced. Fox presses (at one point she asks how Cohen’s mother reacted to reviews calling his book pornographic) but does so politely and does not redirect her interviewee when he flares off on his tangent of choice.
It is rewarding viewing.
Note: Originally posted Feb 24, 2007 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
- This Hour Has Seven Days was a CBC Television newsmagazine inspired by the British satire series That Was The Week That Was. It was also controversial enough that after a two year run, it was taken off the air following the 1966 season. [↩]
- The AV Trust Of Canada lauds her 1965 documentary, “The Mills of the Gods: Viet Nam,” in this excerpt:
Beryl Fox’s The Mills of the Gods remains the quintessential example of Canadian documentary filmmaking. Fox takes us into the Vietnam War and allows us to see first hand the futility, sorrow and inhumanity at its core. Her theme of the conflict between people and ideologies is a universal and timeless one, told through haunting sound and visual images. Today, 34 years after it was first telecast, scenes of brutal civilian casualties, torture of POW’s, and gleeful napalm bombing still shock and outrage us. Contrasted with this horror are scenes from the everyday life of the Vietnamese peasantry, working in the fields, shopping in the market, going to school. Fox creates for the viewer a sense of tension and foreboding, ultimately borne out in images of death, destruction and bodybags on the nightly news. The Mills of the Gods transcends the banality of mass media images of war and still retains its extraordinary power and poignancy.
A clip of the film is available at ~The Mills of the Gods: Viet Nam~ [↩]
- Note: It does appear that on the date of the interview, either Ms Fox had the misfortune to experience a catastrophically bad hair day or a small mammal somehow landed on her head and took up residence there. The composite photo below provides a more balanced perspective on her appearance.