Leonard Cohen At The Movies: Guide to the Cinematic Life of Musician Leonard Cohen

Grace [Jane Fonda]: I had a threesome with Leonard Cohen!
Grace’s Granddaughter [Rosanna Arquett]: Who didn’t?

Lines from – and, according to Dan Callahan, writing in The L Magazine – “the highpoint of” Peace, Love & Misunderstanding,

OK, this example of “Leonard Cohen at the movies” has nothing to do with the focus of this post, i.e., the role of Leonard Cohen’s music in movies; I just threw it in because it was too good not to post and, besides, I figure we can always use the chortles.

Don’t Wait Until The Movie Comes Out – Read This Now

Your Guide to the Cinematic Life of Musician Leonard Cohen by Monika Bartyzel (posted 27 June 2012 on Movies.com) is an unusually thoughtful, astute essay on the role of Leonard Cohen’s music in the movies.

Bartyzel  not only offers commentary on commercial studio films such as Herzog’s Fata Morgana, Fassbinder’s Beware of a Holy Whore, Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller, and Allan Moyle’s Pump Up the Volume but also discusses documentaries (e.g., Harry Rasky’s The Song of Leonard Cohen and Lian Lunson’s I’m Your Man) and Cohen’s own film projects (e.g., I Am A Hotel and, with Lewis Furey, Night Magic).

A strength of the article, in fact, is that it covers many individual movies – although those included are still only a small fraction of  the 139 titles that have used Cohen’s music in 44 years [at time of original posting].

Nor are Bartyzel’s insights into the impact Leonard Cohen’s songs have had on a wide range of movies presented in isolation; instead they are integrated into the context of Cohen’s  career as a singer-songwriter.

Highly recommended.

The complete article can be found at Your Guide to the Cinematic Life of Musician Leonard Cohen

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Related Posts

Stripper Movies: Not one but two movies about strippers, Atom Egoyan’s Exotica and Michael Radford’s Dancing at the Blue Iguana, feature music by Leonard Cohen.

Watchmen: Few movies have generated more controversy over the use of  Leonard Cohen’s music than the this flick’s choice of  “Hallelujah” as mood music for a sex scene between two second-tier superheroes. 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric, collected and organized the online comments.

Take This Waltz and The Gin Game: While not technically a movie, the TV version of the long running play, The Gin Game, which added Leonard Cohen’s “Take This Waltz” to the original script, uses Cohen’s song in much the same way and to similar effect as a cinematic production.

Credit Due Department: Graphic atop post adopted from photo CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikipedia Commons

Note: Originally posted June 29, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Video: Leonard Cohen’s Recitation of “In Flanders Fields” Featured In Gallipoli Exhibition – Te Papa, Wellington

Gallipoli: The Scale Of Our War at Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa – Wellington, New Zealand. In Flanders Fields by John McCrae, recited by Leonard Cohen. Also see Video: Hear Leonard Cohen Recite “In Flanders Fields” By John McCrae

Leonard Cohen’s The Stranger Song Featured In Stranger In Paradise Film

The video starts just before The Stranger Song begins.

Stranger in Paradise, which opens Dutch documentary festival IDFA, is, quite literally, a classroom exercise which assembles would-be migrants in a Lampedusa detention centre and gives them – and the viewer – a brutally direct lesson in the realities of European refugee politics.

From ‘Stranger in Paradise’: IDFA opening film

Credit Due Department: I was alerted to this use of a Leonard Cohen song in a movie by a LeonardCohenForum post by Jarkko Arjatsalo.

Leonard Cohen In 1967 Movie – The Ernie Game

While Leonard Cohen’s music has been featured in more than 50 movie soundtracks,  Cohen himself has rarely been part of the cast (other than in documentaries about him).

In The Ernie Game, however, Leonard Cohen plays a cameo role – as a singer who performs “The Stranger Song.”

The Wikipedia entry on The Ernie Game, a 1967 Canadian film (shot in Montreal) by Don Owen, is instructive:

Called “One of the most innovative examples of personal cinema to come from English Canada in the Sixties” by the Cinematheque Ontario, The Ernie Game was part of a proposed trio of works intended to celebrate the Canadian Centennial. The film centres around Ernie Turner and his attempts to survive in the world after he’s released from an asylum. He grows increasingly alienated and his fragile mental state declines, moving between two women, ex-girlfriend and current lover. “The Ernie Game provides a resonant portrait of mental illness,” writes Steve Gravestock of the Cinematheque, “its pathologically narcissistic protagonist representing Owen’s most nightmarish vision of the artist as fraud and pariah.”  Owen risked his career at the NFB when he surreptitiously turned what was to have been a half-hour educational film into the of the few English-language dramatic features made in Canada during the 1960s.

Produced by the National Film Board of Canada, The Ernie Game received the Etrog Awards, now known as Genie Awards, for Best Direction and Best Feature Film in 1968.  It was also entered into the 18th Berlin International Film Festival.

Cast:   

    Jackie Burroughs – Gail
    Anna Cameron – Social worker
    Leonard Cohen – Singer
    Corinne Copnick – Landlady
    Rolland D’Amour – Neighbour
    Judith Gault – Donna
    Alexis Kanner – Ernie Turner
    Derek May – Ernie’s accomplice
    Louis Negin – Ernie’s friend

Leonard Cohen In The Ernie Game

The video is configured to begin at the start of Cohen’s performance.

Note: Originally posted May 7, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen Reads Prose Poem From Beautiful Losers In 1967 Film: Poen – Video & Commentary

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Poen

Excerpt from The Poetry of Leonard Cohen Illustrated by Two Short Films by Josh Jones (Open Culture: July 18th, 2013)

Beautiful Losers’ dense system of historical references does put one in mind of Ulysses, but the language, the syntax, the eagle flights into the holy and dives into the profane, remind me somewhat of another Buddhist poet of Canadian extraction, Jack Kerouac. Cohen even sounds a bit like Kerouac, in the short 1967 film, “Poen,” an experimental piece that sets four readings of a prose-poem from Beautiful Losers to a montage of starkly provocative images from black-and-white film and photography, Goya, and various surrealists. Made by Josef Reeve for the National Film Board, the short reels out four different recorded takes of Cohen reading the poem. At the end of each reading, he says, “cut,” and the film fades to black. Taken from the novel’s context, the poem becomes a personal meditation on meditation, or perhaps on writing: “My mind seems to go out on a path, the width of a thread,” begins Cohen and unfolds an image of mental discovery like that described by Donald Barthelme, who once said “writing is a process of dealing with not-knowing…. At best there’s a slender intuition, not much greater than an itch.”

Excerpt from Deep Cuts: Leonard Cohen by Margaret Barton-Fumo  (Film Comment: Feb 6, 2017)

“My mind seems to go out on a path the width of a thread and of endless length…” opens the prose poem excerpted from Cohen’s novel, Beautiful Losers (1966). Cohen begins to recite the poem four times, getting further into the text with each try. A rapid montage of black and white still images accompany his voiceover up until the fourth iteration of the poem, which includes archival footage of people shooting guns, war zones, and general destruction. Each image connects in some way to a line of the poem, an individual word or interpretation, and each series of images is different from the next. The camera zooms and pans penetratingly over the shifting images, creating a live collage that both augments and is augmented by Cohen’s multivalent poem.

Continue Reading →

1966 Film, Angel, Features Leonard Cohen’s Music Performed By Stormy Clovers

angel2The National Film Board of Canada site offers this summary:

This is a film about a young man, a girl and a dog, in which the visuals are overexposed or, more technically, given a high contrast. The girl tries to fly with wings more symbolic than practical; the young man and the dog make similar attempts. Music by poet Leonard Cohen, played by The Stormy Clovers.

Also see Introducing The Stormy Clovers – And Their Songwriter, Leonard Cohen

Excerpt from The Poetry of Leonard Cohen Illustrated by Two Short Films by Josh Jones (Open Culture: July 18th, 2013)

In … Derek May’s Angel, a young couple portrayed by Cohen and an uncredited woman scuffle in the snow and play with her floppy, polka-dotted fabric wings. The look of the film is extremely high-contrast with only pitch blacks and pure whites, distorting perspective and effectively creating a vast landscape of continuous snow. Bordering on twee, Angel features music written by Cohen and performed by The Stormy Clovers, Cohen’s early backing band. The instrumentals sound very much like that of Cohen’s debut album, Songs of Leonard Cohen, which was released the following year.

Wikipedia adds

The film features music by Leonard Cohen, performed by The Stormy Clovers. Awards for the film included the Genie Award in the arts and experimental category.

The YouTube description of Angel follows:

A man, a woman and a dog take turns donning wings in this 1966 experimental film that both mocks and embodies the spirit of its decade. Featuring music and an uncredited appearance by Leonard Cohen. Short film directed by Derek May included as a DVD bonus on “Ladies and Gentleman… Mr Leonard Cohen” (The National Film Board of Canada, 2006).

Note: Originally posted Jan 3, 2010 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric