Although it can be difficult to detect the influences in the work of Leonard Cohen, as with all significant artists he was informed by a far-reaching list of performers, musicians, writers, poets and philosophies. And, when we look in the right places, his sources reveal themselves in the songs often considered to have emerged fully formed from their composer’s pen.
In Leonard Cohen’s Lonesome Heroes, the scope and detail of his artistic inspirations are put under the microscope to quite fascinating result. Cohen’s first love was poetry and in both the works of his fellow Canadian Irving Layton, and the Spanish bard Federico Garcia Lorca, he found the words that moved him to create his own verse. The beat writers too hit a positive note with Cohen and their work has lived with him throughout his career. While it may come as no surprise to find Bob Dylan and Judy Collins included in this film, a less acknowledged genre of interest to Leonard is country music - but he was deeply affected by performers such as Hank Williams, Hank Snow and the country recordings of Ray Charles. And the fact his records have always achieved greater success in Europe than in North America may be due in part to his love of the Belgian chansonnier Jacques Brel. These and many others artists are here shown to have played a crucial role in the formation of Leonard Cohen’s muse. But religion and spirituality too have contributed enormously to Leonard’s life and music, particularly the faith into which he was born, Judaism, and his more recent study of Buddhism, which drove him to spend several years in a monastery meditating for hours every day.
With the aid of rare and classic performance footage of both Cohen and those he has been influenced by most, archive interview and film of Leonard, seldom seen photographs, plus exclusive contributions from those who have worked closely with him, this fascinating and wholly unique film is all at once informative, inspiring and eminently watchable, and is bound to delight everyone with even a hint of interest in the man.
The film features new interviews with Judy Collins; his biographer Ira Nadel; poet and Cohen academic Stephen Scobie; the man who guided Leonard through the rituals at the Mount Baldy Buddhist Monastery, Kigen; former Rolling Stone magazine editor, Anthony De Curtis and many other notable colleagues, friends and experts.
EXTRAS: Special Feature ‘Cohen by Collins’ – Judy Collins speaks about her love for the music of Leonard Cohen; Contributor Biographies; Beyond DVD section.