Screened as part of NZIFF 2019
Nick Broomfield’s evocative memoir traces the enduring relationship between Leonard Cohen and Marianne Ihlen, the inspiration behind such seminal songs in the folksinger’s oeuvre as ‘So Long, Marianne’. Traversing time, from the early 1960s when the pair first met on Hydra, a sun- and drug-drenched Greek island that attracted a coterie of expat artists, until their deaths three months apart in 2016, this documentary is rich with archival material and insider knowledge. Broomfield knew and was one of Ihlen’s lovers back in the day, and he charts “a love story that had fifty chapters without being together.” Essential viewing, whether you’re a Cohen fan or not.
“There’s a lot of great Cohen footage, much of it taken from the invaluable 1974 tour diary Bird on a Wire, and you get his journey from early scribblings to late-tour comeback. What makes this film unmissable… is the fact that we get Marianne’s story more or less in full as well. It’s a fleshing out of someone who was more than just a muse, more than just an object of affection for a famous man (and an infamous bastard)…
We’ve heard the now-famous letter that the musician wrote to her as she lay on her deathbed, of how he was ‘right behind her’ in terms of time running out. But to see that letter being read to her, and the run of emotions across her face as she processes her own ‘so long,’ is to feel that the narrative has been given back to her. Marianne is no longer just ‘Leonard’s muse.’ She’s a woman who’s lived and loved and lost completely apart from the songs.” — David Fear, Rolling Stone