Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Leonard Cohen’

Marianne & Leonard ****

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 29th July, 2019

Marianne & LeonardCreativity can be a cruel affliction. The number of writers, painters and other creatives who struggle with depression, battle with drink and drugs or have completely chaotic private lives is beyond count. The beautiful Norwegian blonde Marianne Ihlen, who was living on the Greek island of Hydra with her young son Axel in the 1960s, had to cope with that when she fell for the Canadian writer-turned-singer Leonard Cohen, becoming his mistress and his muse. At the outset, Cohen was living on a shoestring (life was cheap on the island before it was discovered by the international jet set), but as his reputation grew and he divided his time between Hydra and Montreal, with concerts and recordings elsewhere, he became affluent enough to indulge in all the excesses of the 1960s, popping acid and Mandrax, drinking half the day and indulging in free love to the extent that he effectively became a sexoholic. Muse Marianne could only ride the choppy waves of their affair, until cruelly replaced by a determined Other. Little Alex not surprisingly went off the rails and ended up in an institution. So as a love story, Nick Broomfield’s documentary Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love is bitter-sweet, to put it mildly. The “words of love” are what Cohen sent Marianne in a letter on her deathbed (he would follow her three months later), at last telling her what she always wanted to hear. But of course it was too late. She had left Hydra — a “paradise” that destroyed many of the creatives who were taken in by its siren charms) — and back in Oslo she became a secretary and got married. Cohen’s own muddled mind led him to escape to a Zen monastery for six years. When he came out he found that his manager had embezzled all his money, so he was forced back on to the concert stage in his 70s, astonishing everyone (not least himself) by becoming a big star. At least Marianne got to see him in concert then. Because Broomfield’s film is sensitively made from contemporaneous footage as well as black-and-white photographs it really captures the spirit of the age, a unique period of social history against which the free spirits of the Arts world played out their experimental lives. But there is an added twist, namely that Nick Broomfield himself had been to Hydra as a young man and had briefly been Marianne’s lover. It is perhaps not surprising, therefore, that she comes over as a much more sympathetic soul than Leonard Cohen. He is dark, handsome, irresistible to women and phenomenally talented, but like many great artists a bit of a shit, tied up in his own creative preoccupations.

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