Video: Leonard Cohen Talks About His Neighborhood, Un Canadien Errant & More At His Montreal Home – 1979

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It’s A Beautiful Day In Leonard Cohen’s Neighborhood

This excerpt from Harry Rasky’s The Song of Leonard Cohen was filmed in 19791 at Cohen’s home in Montreal. Leonard Cohen, seated on his balcony,2 translates the demo tape of Un Canadien Errant3 from French to English and responds to Rasky’s leading questions.

Here’s one exchange:

Rasky: Do you feel like the person in that song [“Un Canadien errant”], wandering around, mariachi music?
Cohen: A little bit.

lctapeMy other favorite exchange in this scene takes place when Rasky, who never pretended to espouse a detached, neutral relationship with his subjects and appears eager to present Cohen in the best possible light, if not deify him outright, lobs this softball question (partially framed as a comment), “Some people might say why do you want to live out over all those shacks and old balconies,”only to have Cohen wryly respond “Not very many people.”

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  1. Various references indicate the movie was first shown in 1980 and an approximately equal number list it first being broadcast in 1981. In  his insightful review, Dick Straub notes that The Song of Leonard Cohen “was first shown on CBC in 1980,” which is good enough for me. []
  2. While this structure (see screenshot) is ubiquitously called, within by the film dialog and in the commentary on the film, the “balcony,” were it transported to Chicago, it would become a “back porch.” (The “back porch” designation would be effective until it collapses, after which it would be known as a “deathtrap.”)

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  3. “Un Canadien Errant” aka “The Lost Canadian” is a song written in 1837 by Antoine Gérin-Lajoie after the Lower Canada Rebellion of that year in which some convicted rebels were condemned to death or exiled for armed insurrection. The melody is from a Québécois folk tune. To a few, it remains a patriotic song in Canada. Leonard Cohen recorded “Un Canadien errant” on his 1979 Recent Songs album. His original song “The Faith” off his 2004 album Dear Heather is based on the same melody. (Source: Nationmaster Encyclopedia) []