We’ve been having a heatwave in Toronto. I’m not complaining. I promised myself, during the endless deep freeze that was our winter of 2019, that I would not complain of the heat ever again, no matter how bad it is. So I’m merely stating a fact.
This past Saturday was particularly oppresssive, with not even the merest hint of a breeze. My apartment is air conditioned so I could have busied myself at home. But I didn’t want to. I wanted to be out, doing something. “Ahhhh,” I thought to myself. This is a perfect day to go to a movie.
Much as I love movies, I tend not to see too many of them in summer, it’s too nice outside and we have precious few warm summer days in this country. As if the heat warnings on the weather channel app weren’t enough incentive for me to sit in an over-air conditioned theatre, the fact that “Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love” — the documentary about Leonard Cohen and his Norwegian muse, Marianne Ihlen is playing here just made it a no-brainer. And even better, the theatre is a 10-15 minute walk from where I live.
Not that I walked this time. I had planned to, but when I hit the wall of heat the minute I stepped out the front door of my building, I took the subway instead. Okay, I’m a wimp. I’m not ashamed to admit it.
I got there early. I always get everywhere early. I am obsessed with being on time, a trait I inherited from my father, whose idea of being on time was being 15 minutes early. But I was so early, the movie playing before mine wasn’t out yet and the cleaning crew were huddled outside, waiting to go in. So I trotted over to the concession stand and bought myself a frozen yoghurt and some iced coffee. Regrettably, as it turned out.
To tell you one could have hung meat in that theatre is an understatement. One could have hung frozen meat and it wouldn’t have defrosted. Frigid doesn’t begin to describe it. My frozen yoghurt, which had just begun to gently soften while I waited to go in and sit down, became as hard as a rock in a nano second. And the ice in my iced coffee never melted — not through more than 30 torturous minutes of movie clips, quizzes and commercials and not through a little over an hour and a half of the film.
And there I was, in a tissue-paper thin, scoop-neck, cap-sleeve, voluminous T-shirt, with loose-fitting, easy, breezy, lightweight linen pants because you know — I had dressed for the almost 40-degree temperature outside. I cursed myself for not bringing a sweater.
When I left for the theatre I figured that I’d be the only one there. Who goes to a movie at 3 in the afternoon on a Saturday in the summer? Well the theatre was packed, almost full, save for the first few rows of seats. And judging from the fact that most of the audience was female, around my age and older, I don’t think anyone was there to escape the heat. Leonard Cohen loved women and women loved him back, even now three years after his death.
Of course growing up in Montreal, as I did, it’s hard not to be a Leonard Cohen fan. It’s where he was born and lived, at least part of the year, most of his life. He is worshipped there, to this day. There’s a portrait of him on the side of a downtown building.
The documentary was directed by Nick Broomfield, who was in Hydra, Greece for a time in the ’60s with the rest of the hippies and he knew Marianne and Leonard. So to some degree, this was personal for him. The film is an interesting mix of home movie footage and the recollections of people who were there and managed to survive the excesses (drugs and alcohol) of the time and others who knew Leonard Cohen from his Montreal days. I do know some of his story, and some of their story, but certainly not all of it. So I found the documentary very interesting.
What’s fascinating, actually, is that Leonard Cohen was a real hound when it comes to women. He was incapable of being faithful. In fact his behaviour towards women was reprehensible. He flitted from woman to woman like a bee flies from flower to flower. He broke many a heart, yet no one criticizes him for it — even now in the “Me Too” days.
He did do it openly. He was honest about it, never pretended he’d be with them forever, never lied or made excuses. He didn’t mislead any of the women he was with. So does that makes him less of a louse? I’m asking — not because I think he deserves sainthood, but because I’ve never read a bad word about him from any of the women he dallied with, or anyone else, for that matter — including all those interviewed in this film.
“Why?” I wonder. What did he have, what does he still have, that as enlightened as we are, women would still line up to have sex with him now if he was alive — not caring a whit that he was, for his entire life, a serial womanizer?
Even Marianne, whose heart he not only broke, but shredded, loved him to the day she died and, continued to go to his concerts, singing along, well into her old age and his. Which is my only complaint about this documentary. I cannot get the song, “Goodbye Marianne” out of my mind. I was humming it when I left the theatre. It stuck with me all Saturday night. I tried everything.
Nothing worked. I listened to dozens of other Leonard Cohen songs. Not even “Hallelujah” worked. I tried the Rolling Stones and Aretha Franklin. I tried reading a book. I tried writing. I tried watching TV.
It was playing over and over again as I fell asleep and it was still there Sunday morning when I woke up. In fact, I think that’s what woke me up. It was there all day yesterday and it’s still there now. I’m ready to start banging my head against the wall.
Goodbye Marianne already!