Filmmaker Nick Broomfield recounts his memories of Marianne Ihlen and singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen in his documentary Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love.
Comprised mostly of archival footage and curated narration along with some contemporary interviews, Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love captures the complex relationship between the titular couple. Cohen considered Ihlen as his muse; a caring soul who helped redirect his life in times of sorrow. As one of Marianne’s former lovers and someone who remembers being entranced by Marianne and Leonard’s connection, Broomfield appears to be bound to make a respective dedication to these front-and-centre subjects. But, the film can’t help but fall into being a conventional biopic about Cohen; using Marianne’s segments to provide an alternate perspective from someone on the fringe of Cohen’s success.
Bearing a similar yet purely coincidental structural appearance to recent music doc Melody Makers: Should’ve Been There, I did find myself more invested in this film. While uneven for the overall project, Broomfield uses footage in a cool and wise way to communicate Cohen’s life on the road. But Words of Love is a distant doc. Essentially, the audience is receiving a biopic of a famous figure from the perspective of someone (Marianne) through the eyes of someone else (Broomfield). The connection to the subject matter may feel personal for the filmmaker but, because of this, the finished film itself is a tad self-serving, and it doesn’t entirely translate well for the audience.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie