Despite some luke warm reviews, I chose “Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love” today over the much lauded “Maiden”. Why you ask? My rapturous viewing of last year’s Nick Broomfield documentary masterpiece, “Whitney: Can I Be Me?”. Don’t get me wrong, Whitney Houston’s music is close to my core, whereas Cohen’s singing seems, dare I say it, close to Robert Goulet. But because Broomfield’s a solid director, I placed my bet on him for an afternoon.
And I’m so happy with my choice! Broomfield proves once again, his uncanny ability to show a warts and all life story, yet portray the focal humans as sympathetic and redeemable.
While I don’t read full reviews before I see a film, I had caught a glimpse of one critic’s complaint that said the film was one sided. I’ll look back to see who that foolish person was, but this was anything but one sided. We saw Cohen in all his Tiger Woodsesque whoring years, we see Marianne Ihlen as both maternal friend and yet ironically neglectful mother. Not one sided in any way shape or form. You see Cohen as he moves through years of acid dropping tripster to Buddhist temple dweller. Rich and poor, Cohen was a multidimensional artist.
What intrigues me is how fickle our culture is, treating men like Cohen with kid gloves, but ripping to shreds other men who ‘like the ladies’. I’m shocked that Cohen was never hit with a “Me, Too” moment, but perhaps his death in 2016 happened before the tidal wave, or more likely, he had a Mick Jaggar mystique which hypnotized women into consensual sex 100% of the time and 0% ever felt exploited.
As far as his love for Marianne there is no question that he loved her. When you look back at your life, especially if you’re past the half-time show as I am, you realize not many pairs can withstand years apart and still keep in touch in a loving and reverential manner. Those couples who can and do are truly special. I am grateful that I have one ex-husband who touches base now and then honoring what we had (and because of this still have, like the Faulkner line, “the past is never dead, it’s not even past”), and I’m also fortunate to be loved by a current very dear friend with whom who I still hang out. I wish there were three more actually (JB, JE, and RA) who let emotional pain, emotional restriction and/or pride get in the way of at least an annual (or even once or twice a decade) phone call or letter honoring wonderful memories. Does that mean they weren’t true loves? Gee, I hope not. They certainly still mean something to me, all in a very individual and deeply moving way.
At any rate, the documentary “Marianne & Leonard” has enough peaks and valleys to keep you going. The depth of Leonard’s love for Marianne is indisputable even when the narrative seems uneven in their crooked line relationship, but that’s just the point. While his celebrity got in the way of his fidelity, the doc’s harmonious finale induced many sniffles in a sold out showing at Burns Court Cinema. Bravo Mr. Broomfield and Bravo Burns Court!