The MV Film Center’s Doc Week ends tomorrow, Friday August 5, with an exceptional documentary, “Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Song”. This film combines the story of Cohen’s life with that of his most famous song, “Hallelujah.” (This screening is currently out of print.) For those unfamiliar with Cohen, he is both a legendary songwriter and a haunting singer. His music conveys erotic and spiritual messages with a complexity and dark beauty unlike any modern musician.
Born in Montreal to an affluent Orthodox Jewish family, Cohen began as a poet and novelist. He only started writing songs in 1967, when he was 30 years old. In April of that year, he overcame his distrust of the stage and, with the support of Judy Collins, began singing in public. He sang “Suzanne”, another of his signature songs, as did Collins. He released his first album, “Songs of Leonard Cohen”, and three more albums followed. He had many relationships with women, including Janis Joplin and Joni Mitchell, and they became the subjects of many of his songs.
After her first performance, Cohen toured for nine months, then landed in Los Angeles. His manager was Marty Machet and then Phil Spector, and around this time he recorded “Death of a Ladies Man”, produced by Spector. Then came “Six Songs for Rebecca” to actress Rebecca de Mornay, with whom he was having an affair. Another of his relationships was with Suzanne Elrod, who produced two children, Adam and Lorca. Cohen later said that cowardice and fear kept him from marrying her.
At 40, he was interviewed by Rolling Stone magazine and said he was exploring his Jewish roots. When questioned, he said of Montreal: “It’s purgatory. He considered changing his name to September Cohen.
He both observed the Jewish Sabbath and practiced Zen Buddhism, becoming ordained a Rinzai Buddhist monk in 1996. During this time, he began spending time at Mount Baldy Zen Center in Southern California. He also admired Jesus Christ, and a friend once said he had never found a religion he didn’t like. But he continued to practice Judaism, as did his children.
Her relationship with French photographer Dominique Isserman led to two videos, which she shot, as well as the covers of her book “Stranger Music” and the album “More Best of Leonard Cohen.”
In 1982, at the age of 50, he fell in love for the first time while recording “Songs of Love and Hate”. yet he had put women on a pedestal long before that. He was in Paris when he began work on the remarkable “Hallelujah”, a song he called a symbolist poem, and worked on it for many years, producing 180 lines.
Cohen died on November 7, 2016, at the age of 82. A year later, a memorial concert, “Tower of Song”, was held in Montreal. Among the many people who sang “Hallelujah” in tribute to this legendary singer and songwriter were kd lang, Elvis Costello, Sting and Courtney Love. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie also discussed their relationship with Cohen. He is a singer and songwriter who will never be forgotten.