“Love is not a victory march,” Leonard Cohen swooned. Nick Broomfield’s haunting documentary is a lovely illustration of the twists and turns of a complicated relationship.
The film is about the enduring love between Cohen and Marianne Ihlen, the Norwegian woman he met on the Greek island of Hydra in the early 1960s. It’s a story that is at once simple and threaded with startling complexities. Its narrative twists can seem the stuff of fiction, one which resulted in broken hearts, cold shoulders and several unbelievably beautiful songs. He spent his days writing his novel Beautiful Losers, and she supported him.
Both a memento mori and the chronicle for how there ain’t no cure for love, the doc continually underlines Cohen’s finicky nature, and his shark-like need to keep moving or perish. As for Ilhen, we get a sense of her loneliness, her attempts to balance being a mother and a partner, the toll of wanting something she can’t have and someone who won’t be tied down. Even as things are coming to their conclusion, Cohen is still using their bond as the basis for his art. (Jack Whiting)