Ladies and Gentlemen... Mr. Leonard Cohen
Donald Brittain: Writer, filmmaker, storyteller. - A selection by Adam Symansky

Ladies and Gentlemen... Mr. Leonard Cohen

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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.

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

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  • 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