Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love
His previous music-related pictures, ‘Kurt and Courtney’ and ‘Whitney Can I Be Me’ have seen documentarian Nick Broomfield displaying little interest in the actual music, concentrating instead on lurid muckraking and unreliable tittle-tattle. Here at least he can claim a real stake in this portrait of late singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen’s enduring but unorthodox relationship with his Norwegian muse Marianne Ihlen (of ‘So Long Marianne’ fame). Broomfield, it is revealed, was also briefly one of Marianne’s lovers after he washed up on the boho-occupied Greek island, Hydra in the 60s. A pre-fame Cohen had landed there a few years earlier in 1960, living off the money he had won from a poetry prize. He quickly fell in love with Ihlen, whose husband had recently abandoned her, and an affair began, with Cohen also acting as surrogate father to her withdrawn son, Axel. But as he gained renown as a singer-songwriter Cohen began to spend more time away touring, his wryly mournful musical persona belying a prodigious appetite for women and drugs, and intermittently abandoning Marianne and Axel. Using the couple as platform, Broomfield examines the idealism and the inherent tensions of the 60s utopian dream. While too sketchy to warrant feature length, it does serve as an occasionally moving tribute to Ihlen. But the pull of the charismatic singer proves too much to resist for Broomfield; consequently Ihlen frequently disappears from the story for long stretches. Archive footage of Cohen is great although it will be familiar to dedicated fans.