Video: Robert Altman Talks About Leonard Cohen, His Songs & The McCabe & Mrs. Miller Soundtrack


It has become difficult to find a movie critic who doesn’t acknowledge the impact of Leonard Cohen’s songs on Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller. A representative observation follows:

Watching Altman’s film, it becomes obvious that Cohen’s songs preternaturally fit each film they slide into, as if the words were meant for each scene (even if that same song is used over and over again in different worlds, scenarios, and films).1

In this video, Altman, who died in 2006,  is interviewed ahead of the release of Gosford Park  sometime in the late 1990s on Elvis Mitchell‘s Independent Focus program.


Along with comments about censorship, recruiting Cher to play in Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, why he was fed up with Hollywood, and more, Altman tells how he came to realize, after filming was completed, that he wanted music from Songs Of Leonard Cohen on the soundtrack of  McCabe & Mrs. Miller, how he tracked down the Canadian singer-songwriter, and why Cohen’s enthusiastic response was key.

Update: See other posts about Leonard Cohen’s music in McCabe & Mrs. Miller and video clips of Cohen’s music in that film at 

Note: The video should begin automatically at the pertinent portion of the program (about 12:14). The material about Leonard Cohen lasts 4-5 minutes. The entire Altman interview, however, is worth watching.

Independent Focus with Robert Altman

Note: Originally posted Jul 29, 2014 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric

  1. Your Guide to the Cinematic Life of Musician Leonard Cohen  by Monika Bartyzel. Posted 27 June 2012 at []

National Parks Adventure Movie Soundtrack Features Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah (Twice)


National Parks Adventure, released February 2016, is summarized in The Smithsonian:

National Parks Adventure takes you on the ultimate IMAX® off-trail adventure into the nation’s awe-inspiring great outdoors and untamed wilderness. Spectacularly wild and beautiful places like Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Everglades, the Redwoods, Arches, and Canyonlands are illuminated as never before with immersive giant-screen cinematography, revealing a tapestry of natural wonders that will inspire the adventurer in us all.

Viewing the film at a huge screen theatre in The Hague, Peter Torbijn of the Netherlands was surprised to find Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah  was featured in the soundtrack twice (once as the Jeff Buckley cover). This excerpt from “National Parks Adventure”: An Omni Ode to Our Parks as Playgrounds by Jay Gabler. (The Tangential: Feb 24, 2016) describes the role of the song in the movie:

In the rootsy jukebox that soundtracks the new National Parks Adventure, two songs are actually heard twice each. One of those songs is unsurprising: if you thought you were going to see a film about the National Park system without getting both the Bruce Springsteen and Little Feat versions of “This Land is Your Land,” you had another think coming.

The other is less obvious: Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Besides the fact that the singer-songwriter is actually Canadian (shhh), the song isn’t about land or home or summertime: it’s about a conflicted relationship.

“Hallelujah” ends up highlighting two subtexts in National Parks Adventure. There’s a clear religious allusion, particularly when the song is heard as three vacationers explore a sanctuary-like ice cave on Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Then, there’s also the theme of our conflicted relationship with the land we’ve made ourselves stewards of.

Leonard At The Multiplex – The Best Of Leonard Cohen In The Movies

moviecomboRecommended Reading

The Best of Leonard Cohen in the Movies by Michael Glover Smith ( Sept 22, 2014) offers succinct, thoughtful, and insightful summaries of the roles played by Leonard Cohen’s music in five films:

  • “The Stranger Song,” “Sisters of Mercy” and “Winter Lady” in Robert Altman’s McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971)
  • “Chelsea Hotel #2″ in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980)
  • “Avalanche” in Olivier Assayas’s Cold Water (1994)
  • “I’m Your Man” in Steve James’s Life Itself (2014)
  • “Take This Waltz” in Jean-Luc Godard’s Letter in Motion to Gilles Jacob and Thierry Fremaux (2014)

Originally posted September 24, 2014 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Andrew Pulver explains “What’s so great about [Leonard Cohen’s] stuff?”

So what’s so great about his stuff? I’m not a proper music writer, but for me, it’s a number of factors. First and foremost, Cohen is such an empathetic figure: wise-seeming, morally insightful, emotionally generous and a magnetic performer. (I managed to weasel tickets to two of his 2008 London concerts and was properly awestruck at the way the man conducted himself on stage.) He appeared to distill all the qualities I would have hoped to find in other heroes of mine.



Excerpt from My favourite album: Songs of Leonard Cohen by Leonard Cohen by Andrew Pulver (Guardian: Oct 6, 2011). This is a well written, personal, and perceptive essay about Pulver’s discovery, as a young adult in the 1990s, and consequent appreciation of Leonard Cohen’s first album as a consequence of Robert Altman’s McCabe and Mrs Miller.  (Andrew Pulver is the Guardian’s Film Editor.) The complete article is available at the link.

2015 Leonard Cohen Highlights: Nevermind By Leonard Cohen – True Detective’s Theme Song

lc-td2Leonard Cohen’s “Nevermind” being chosen as the theme song of True Detective, Season Two itself generated massive interest. When the strategy of playing different portions of the song at the start of each episode became apparent, the number of views generated by this series of posts multiplied. Thanks go to Marie of SpeakingCohen, who provided the exact Nevermind lyrics used in of each specific episode of the program. I’ve listed some of the key posts on this topic below:

Cohencentric’s Perpetually Popular Post – Watchmen Sex Scene Videos: Compare Leonard Cohen & Allison Crowe Versions Of Hallelujah As Soundtracks

sexsceneSince Cohencentric’s online premiere March 7, 2015, this site has hosted more than 1700 posts Over the next few days, we’re going to take another look at some of the most popular.

Of all Cohencentric posts,none has been so consistently well received as Watchmen Sex Scene Videos: Compare Leonard Cohen & Allison Crowe Versions Of Hallelujah As Soundtracks. Since its publication five months ago, not a day has gone by without it being in the ten most viewed posts and on more than 15 occasions, distributed irregularly over those five months, it has been the most popular post of the day. The post and both videos can be viewed at the link.

Signs Of Leonard Cohen: 1973 A Cause Du Pop Movie Poster Featuring Leonard Cohen (Playing Left-handed)


Poster for A Cause Du Pop (aka Guitare Au Poing), the 1973 French film about the 1970 Aix en Provence music festival, which features Leonard Cohen’s Aug 2 performance. It has long been unavailable (although rumors of that it will imminently be made accessible have cropped up sporadically for at least the last five years), making this documentary a much sought after property by fans of Cohen, Johnny Winter, Mungo Jerry, and other artists who performed at the festival.

From Leonard Cohen Video Database

“A Cause du Pop” Movie commercially released under the name “Guitare au poing” Year 1976, France. Movie relating the 1970 festival of Aix-En-Provence (France) consisting of stock-shots from news broadcastings. Leonard sung along with many artists like Johnny Winter, Mungo Jerry, Pete Brown, Colosseum, Titanic, Rare Bird, Triangle, Dynastic crisis, Trader Horn, Chico (now Chico Magnetic Band), Wallace collection, Majority One, Rada Krishna. Production: SEDIMO, Astra Paris Films. Dialogues: Jacques Higelin and Küelan Hercé.Directed by Daniel Szuster. Note also that the French Radio Network “France-Inter” broadcasted the songs on air (unavailable, otherwise illegal).

Note: This is the only reference I find placing the film’s release in 1976. All other sources list 1972 or 1973. IMDb has the release date as June 22, 1973.

From the eBay sales description:

Original synopsis issued by the studio when the film was released and meant for theatrical display.

Note: Originally posted October 29, 2013 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Recommended Reading – McCabe & Mrs. Miller: Profound Pessimism And Leonard Cohen Kindness


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 

Note: Originally posted October 6, 2014 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric