…is a disaster.
For those unfamiliar with Leonard Cohen, it fails, seemingly making the assumption that you are familiar to some degree with his life’s work.
For those who are familiar — like me, the substance and storytelling contained within Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love is abysmal. A real letdown for fans of Cohen. Admittedly, the filmmaker takes his own, different tack, focusing on a key relationship of Cohen — but he failed at really conveying that too.
There are a couple nice little biographical tidbits, like a dry shave to reinvigorate a stage performance. But these show that the filmmaker is not intending Words of Love to be some sort of un-biography. There’s a very strong sense that there was a lot more biography left out, or i.e. never found by the filmmaker. That there’s a lot more to Leonard Cohen’s life, big and small, that we never get to see.
Kate McKinnon’s performance of “Hallelujah” right after the election, and right after his death, was more profound and substantial than this entire movie. One of the most incredible things ever done on SNL, a deeply emotional and powerful tribute to Leonard Cohen while simultaneously mourning the death of a nation that happened on that horrible Tuesday night.
* * *
Speaking of music. Where’s the music for Christ’s sake? I mean, you’re handed that on a tee. There were snips here and there of Cohen on stage, as if to say, ‘by the way, here’s Leonard Cohen doing what he does best, doing what made him famous, the only reason we’re now making a documentary.’ But there was way too little of it — so disappointing. It’s not like there are a hundred other Leonard Cohen films out there. Swap out about half the interview time for music and this thing would have been much improved.
Sometimes I get frustrated or even angry at filmmakers screwing up the goose that laid the golden egg. I’m in no way angry here, because I recognize it as pure incompetence. It shows that making a documentary is no gimme. It’s not that easy. You have to know what you’re doing.
I mean generally, if you have strong content for a documentary, often you just let that stand on its own. So maybe it is easy. This filmmaker seemingly did everything he could to block the extraordinary work of Leonard Cohen. The couple aforementioned tidbits raise this one to 3/10.