In celebration of Leonard Cohen’s 75th birthday last Monday, the National Film Board’s “online screening room” (read: website) is showcasing Donald Britain and Don Owen’s 1965 short Cohen doc. As the NFB describes it, the Genie-award winning Ladies and Gentlemen...Mr. Leonard Cohen “paints an informal portrait of the legendary Montreal poet, novelist and songwriter both onstage and off.”
It’s a nice sketch of Cohen as poet, novelist and well-heeled “confident young man,” a few years before he packed his bags and absconded to the States to make a run at the folk music clubs. Cohen is charming as all hell as he jokes about a Verdun mental hospital, butts heads with Pierre Berton and slums around smoky Montreal bars.
While Cohen has been back in the spotlight for the past couple of years—the result of the unending world tour he is undertaking largely to recoup the +/- $5 million his manager swindled him out of in 2005, and “Hallelujah” rocketing up the iTunes charts following a contestant singing it on American Idol—Ladies and Gentlemen...Mr. Leonard Cohen presents an artist unburdened by such vulgar concerns, searching (as he believes the poet must), for a “state of grace.” It’s also a fine example of the classic-era of NFB docs. With an expository voiceover that gives loose meaning to the images without rigorously compartmentalizing or editorializing, Britain and Owen’s film is very much the précis of Canada’s subsidized documentary tradition.
Again, watch it here.