Coming from a privileged Jewish family, he had already written poems and novels when he burst into the limelight at the end of the 1960s – in 1967 to be exact. his disc, “Songs…
Coming from a privileged Jewish family, he had already written poems and novels when he burst into the limelight at the end of the 1960s – in 1967 to be exact. his disc, “Songs of Leonard Cohen”, evokes the Bible and war, God and women. The success is immediate. At 33, the age when pop stars with dazzling destinies disappear, he imposes his tempo. It will take years to refine “Hallelujah”. An epic of words and images that combine sex, pain and faith. He who has everything, starting with talent, already knows that what really matters is elsewhere. That you have to go through compassion – writing is at this price. “He was always thinking of the less fortunate,” said his favorite backing vocalist Sharon Robinson.
At that time, American producers saw him as an original, but most were not mistaken about his qualities. They simply ignore the breadth of this composer who speaks softly, who draws his words from the religious, who has “a very complicated relationship to the divine”, according to journalist Larry Sloman, and who is able to interrupt a work session with his arranger (John Lissauer) and to return eight years later…
A quiet enthusiast
His journey, it is true, accelerated. In these 1970s when his elegies seduced the world and particularly Europe, he went on tours. He loses his father, separates from Suzanne – who is not the one in the song – and is still working on “Hallelujah” whose verses and layers stack up like a palimpsest. Photographer Dominique Isserman come into his life. “He was a discreet enthusiast,” she says in front of the camera of Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine.
They are numerous to testify, but if Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine reconstruct its trajectory, they do not make a biographical documentary of it. His journey is there only to better shed light on his flagship song, this “Hallelujah” whose directors make the multiple meanings heard. On its own, it reveals the inner journey of its author, whose notebooks show that he never ceased to take it up. When it finally came out in the early 1980s, producer Phil Spector acted up and the grace passed. The album that contains it, “Various Positions”, is only released in Europe. “Hallelujah” goes almost unnoticed.
However, this title will know a destiny like no other. Rejected by his record company and ending ten years later as a cult anthem. A triumph that gave more than 600 versions around the world. Everyone sang it, from Bob Dylan to John Cale passing by the angelica Jeff Buckley – or Rufus Wainwright who played him in the “Shrek” soundtrack. Everyone takes it, revisits it, interprets it, to the point that soon, the new generation no longer knows that the song is by Leonard Cohen. He’s having fun. “It’s my little revenge,” he blurts out.
quest for god
If this doc is so fascinating, it is because it does not leave the figure of the artist, while dissecting this “Hallelujah” like a living body whose organs are the words. Cohen put there more than poetic images, more than dreams, he laid down his tortured soul, his loneliness, his metaphysical quest. “An author can only resolve his conflicts by writing,” he would say years later, when he had overcome his alcoholism, after six years spent in a monastery on Mount Baldy in Canada. Six years of meditation and meditation – he was even ordained a Buddhist monk – after which he returned to “normal” life…
Thus he earns his redemption. He did not forget that it is the words that create the world in the Jewish tradition. “Hallelujah” continues its celestial path, star of all TV shows and Christmas trees. Solemn and free, mysterious and universal. Cohen, he goes back on stage. At 70, after being robbed by his agent, he regains his life, in every sense of the word. He gives himself to the public, humble and fervent. Applauded, celebrated, he savors each concert of a tour that will last five years. He knows he’s at the end of the road and his voice is all the more beautiful.
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Cinema: “Hallelujah, the words of Leonard Cohen”, mythical and mystical artist
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