How Many True Loves Fit into One Lifetime? Marianne & Leonard

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!

Toni Erdmann and Gino Vannelli’s I Just Wanna Stop

What crazy film and music connection am I making today? Well, opening my place of work on Saturday morning meant that I could choose the Pandora Station. So Kenny Loggins it was, much to the chagrin of my co-worker, a stalwart Beatles fan. (Don’t feel too sorry for him, I let him switch by 11 a.m. to stop his grousing.) But during those blissful 90 minutes, Pandora mixed in Gino Vannelli. My co-worker groaned, while simultaneously a shopper lit up like a Christmas tree, pronouncing her love for Gino. I had to concur, especially for the song playing, “I Just Wanna Stop”.

About 10 hours later, I’m watching Toni Erdmann, [another Cineworld Film Fest feature, a German comedy written and directed by Maren Ade], as the father character (played perfectly by Peter Simonschieck) explains to his daughter (also a knockout performance by Sandra Huller) that everyone is so busy ‘doing something’ that important ‘moments’ slip by unable to achieve fruition or depth.

As time passes, I’ve felt more profoundly that technology distracts us from the human encounters we use to have, and ‘moments’, like leaves traveling much too quickly down the streams of our lives, go unnoticed. And it’s not just technology, but what activities and ‘progress’ that technology affords. Who hasn’t been on their device thinking, ‘Why not cram in 4 meet up groups?’, ‘why not make more meetings/sell more goods/procure more income?’, ‘hey, what about taking up this hobby?’.

Unless we make the point of grabbing fewer, and therefore, more precious people/possessions/associations and thus, stopping the madness long enough to appreciate them, our later years will be filled with regret and emptiness. This applies to parent-child relationships as in Toni Erdmann, romantic relationships, friendships, et. all.

Toni Erdmann made me laugh, made me cry, and gave me that feeling of being a different person afterwards, which hasn’t happened to me in quite sometime. Being at a distance emotionally from my immediate family right now, and at a physical distance from those who I care most about (and who care reciprocally about me) makes me feel vulnerable. Yet the sweet father daughter tale of Toni Erdmann restored my faith that people can make the world stop and connect.

An added musical comment is that I’m a total sucker for Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All” and three quarters into Toni Erdmann, when the song is sung passionately; well, let’s just say the dam was broken. Learning to love ourselves is the greatest love of all. This takes reflection (channel an angry Jewish voice akin to Bernie Sanders for the next phrase), AND unplugging from the damn technology. Only then, can we hope to steel a moment with the ones we care about. This isn’t to say that technology can’t bridge a physical distance, but let’s not let it be our only mode.

I realize I pontificated more on an idea than the film, but Toni Erdmann is, by far, my favorite film of the year. And Cannes, of course, has already confirmed this sentiment, by making T.E. a Palm d’ Or nominee and winner of the Cannes Fipresci Prize. I’d like to advise fathers of daughters to make this a holiday viewing experience, yet there’s one 10 minute scene that I think would be too squeamish sexually for either part’s comfort level. Perhaps watch it separately and have dinner soon after:)

And now for your aural pleasure: