“Hallelujah” was my introduction to Leonard Cohen’s world of poetic song. His voice and lyrics mystically combined to capture my attention and fondness. Although Cohen is not a born from above Christian, he is a kindred soul in his search for truth. At 72 now, I continue to pray that he will come to the One who is Truth for good!
At any rate , last week I found a little time to view a moving and insightful documentary about Cohen. For the most part, I was enthralled with its mellifluous simplicity. Popular musical performance and poetic profundity often make for ambivalent partners. Somewhere in the documentary, U2’s Bono says something like: “Leonard Cohen came along and demonstrated how you could get the biggest questions to fit into the proportions of a pop song.” That just about says it all. At the heart of the film is footage from a concert held in Australia with such outstanding and unusual artists as Nick Cave, Beth Orton, Rufus Wainwright, and the Handsome Family covering such Cohen classics as “Suzanne,” “Sisters of Mercy,” “Anthem,” “If It Be Your Will,” and “Tower of Song.” Old footage of Cohen’s youth in Canada supplies emotionally resonant visual imagery. The interviews are succinct and revelatory - in addition to Bono, we hear from a variety of commentators, including Hal Wilner, who organized the concert, and the ever-thoughtful Nick Cave. And then there is the figure of Cohen himself: suave yet humble, serious but wry, a man of many parts. By the end of the documentary, when Cohen performs “Tower of Song” along with U2, you may find it hard to keep your eyes entirely dry. This documentary is the first film by Lian Lunson and it is an auspicious beginning indeed.
If you live near a large city, check your local listings and see this documentary in the movie theater as I did last week. Such a viewing will get the full effect of the concert footage. Anchored firmly in this world, Cohen’s imagination has always seen our life sub specie aeternitatis. As he says in “Anthem”: “There’s a crack... a crack in everything... that’s how the light gets in.” Poet, novelist, songwriter, sometime Zen monk, Judeo-Christian forager of the mysteries of the pilgrim life, Cohen is definitely your man.
The film’s official website can be found here.
Buy the soundtrack here.
Leonard Cohen from Wikipedia click here.
Bird on a Wire: Cohen’s home page.
Cohen quote: What is a saint? A saint is someone who has achieved a remote human possibility. It is impossible to say what that possibility is. I think it has something to do with the energy of love. Contact with this energy results in the exercise of a kind of balance in the chaos of existence. A saint does not dissolve the chaos; if he did the world would have changed long ago. I do not think that a saint dissolves the chaos even for himself, for there is something arrogant and warlike in the notion of a man setting the universe in order. It is a kind of balance that is his glory. He rides the drifts like an escaped ski. His course is the caress of the hill. His track is a drawing of the snow in a moment of its particular arrangement with wind and rock. Something in him so loves the world that he gives himself to the laws of gravity and chance. Far from flying with the angels, he traces with the fidelity of a seismograph needle the state of the solid bloody landscape. His house is dangerous and finite, but he is at home in the world. He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love. - L. Cohen, Beautiful Losers (1966)