Ladies and Gentlemen... Mr. Leonard Cohen

Ladies and Gentlemen... Mr. Leonard Cohen

This informal black-and-white portrait of Leonard Cohen shows him at age 30 on a visit to his hometown of Montreal, where the poet, novelist and songwriter comes "to renew his neurotic affiliations." He reads his poetry to an enthusiastic crowd, strolls the streets of the city, relaxes in this three-dollar-a-night hotel room and even takes a bath.

A lot of Donald's work was salvage jobs for other people, and that's how he came to do this film. Don Owen shot the tour of the four poets, couldn't get it to work and Brittain came in and saw that the only thing that worked was the Leonard Cohen segments.

The most interesting thing is the exploration of documentary truth, where Cohen writes in the bathtub, caveat emptor, and then the two of them sit in the theatre and Don questions him about that scene. It's an interesting exchange. The whole film is basically the two of them saying, "Don't believe everything you see just because it's documentary."

They stayed friends all their life. Cohen was at Don's funeral in tears. They recognized each other as authentic human beings. The lived the lives they wanted to lead.

Adam Symansky
From the playlist: Donald Brittain: Writer, filmmaker, storyteller.

...great document of Leonard Cohen as a younger a poet...Montreal is the real star in this film though...fragmented ghost transmissions from a city that no longer exists...

David Bryant
From the playlist: David Bryant (Godspeed You! Black Emperor)

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  • writer
    Donald Brittain
  • designer
    Donald Brittain
  • director
    Donald Brittain
    Don Owen
  • film editor
    Barrie Howells
  • photography
    Paul Leach
    Laval Fortier
    Roger Racine
  • location sound
    Roger Hart
    Barry Ferguson
  • music
    Donald Douglas
  • sound editing
    Marguerite Payette
  • sound re-recording
    Ron Alexander
    Roger Lamoureux
  • producer
    John Kemeny
  • narrator
    Michael Kane

Ladies and Gentlemen... Mr. Leonard Cohen
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  • garyh

    Candid, enlightening, fascinating portrait of the legendary Canadian poet, songwriter and singer. Captivating from start to finish, thanks to Cohen's engaging and likeable personality. A nice time capsule of Montreal in late 1964, as well.

    garyh, 28 Jul 2020
  • None

    I wanted to leave a comment so I joined the NFB, I'm not a joiner more an avoider but I joined the NFB. I read the long disclaimer that told me I'd be safe, that the NFB is an agent of the federal Crown. I've always lived under that same Crown and I hope that Leonard knew that the Crown of Greece is part of that old order and when he lived there he was safe.

    None, 30 Jul 2019
  • Lise1961

    The unwanted hair ads is hilarious, glad NFB made this film!

    Lise1961, 27 Jan 2017
  • BangkokJohnny

    The cigarette smoke prevails

    BangkokJohnny, 14 Apr 2014
  • earl64

    I did not realize Cohen was famous before he started singing. I love his poetry and will try to get my hands on his books of poetry.

    earl64, 2 Feb 2012
  • abatko

    At 8:40 Leonard Cohen says: When I get up in the morning... my real concern is to discover whether I'm in a state of grace. And if I make that investigation, and I discover that I am not in a state of grace, I try to go [back] to bed. A state of grace is that kind of balance with which you ride the chaos that you find around you. It's not a matter of resolving the chaos -- because there's something arrogant and warlike about putting the world in order -- but having a kind of escape ski down over a hill, just going through the contours of the hill. Interviewer interjects: Oh, you have lost me! Irving Layton explains: What Cohen is trying to do right now is to preserve the self; that's his real concern, and I think that is the concern for every poet: to preserve the self in a world that is rapidly steamrollering the selves out of existence, and establishing a uniform world.

    abatko, 5 May 2010

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Ladies and Gentlemen... Mr. Leonard Cohen , Donald Brittain & Don Owen, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

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