The film is unimaginable to me without the Cohen songs, which function as these mournful interstitials that unify the entire movie. What a charitable way to describe McCabe, as “just some Joseph looking for a manger,” or to understand his ambition as “watching for a card so high and wild, he’ll never have to deal another.” Through Cohen’s lyrics—not too direct, not too oblique—we understand McCabe as a man who wants to build something and get himself to a place where he can settle down. In other words, there are restrictions to how much he wants from the town of Presbyterian Church. I’m certain the men who have him killed won’t place similar restrictions on themselves.
Excerpt from McCabe & Mrs. Miller: profound pessimism and Leonard Cohen kindness by Keith Phipps and Scott Tobias. The Dissolve: September 30, 2014. The entire essay is available at the link.
Update: See other posts about Leonard Cohen’s music in McCabe & Mrs. Miller and video clips of Cohen’s music in that film at McCabe & Mrs. Miller
Note: Originally posted October 6, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric