I had the good fortune to interview Leonard Cohen in 1988 when he was promoting his I’m Your Man album. During the course of the interview he told me Marianne Ihlen, a Norwegian woman he met on the Greek island of Hydra during the 1960s, was the love of his life.
At the Irish Film Institute from July 26 is Marianne and Leonard: Words of Love, a documentary which explores their relationship throughout that halcyon decade. She was the inspiration behind many of his songs, most notably ‘So Long, Marianne’ which contains classic lines like “we met when we were almost young” and “she held on to me like I was a crucifix”.
Marianne died of leukemia in 2016. When Cohen heard how ill she was he wrote a letter to her saying: “Well, Marianne, it’s come to a time when our bodies are so old we’re falling apart. I think I’ll follow you very soon. Goodbye, old friend. See you down the road.”
His words went viral on social media. They sadly came to fruition; he followed her to the grave a few months later. But his reputation endures. This documentary from Nick Broomfield, who also had a romance with Ihlen, will confirm the depth of his legacy.
A large part of the film career of the French Catholic director Robert Bresson, perhaps most famous for Diary of a Country Priest, contained reflections on the decay of modern society. Nowhere was this more evident than in The Devil, Probably, which you can see at the IFI from July 28.
“What prompted me to make the film,” he said, “is the total waste we’ve made of everything. We’re living in a world in which the human being doesn’t exist anymore.”
Tackling issues like famine, pollution, the waste of natural resources and the “hole in the soul” brought about by spiritual emptiness, his film has as much to say to us today as it did on its release over forty years ago.
A third film at the IFI, from July 19, is Varda by Agnes. It’s the directorial swansong of Agnes Varda, the ‘Queen of French Cinema’. The much-loved pioneer recaps on her life from the time she was an avatar of the French New Wave in the 1950s.
On general release is The Current War, a more mainstream offering. It stars Benedict Cumberbach as Thomas Edison and Michael Shannon as George Westinghouse. The inventors become rivals in a bid to see which of their electrical systems will dominate the future.
Also on general release is Teen Spirit. It concerns the fortunes of a shy teenager (Elle Fanning) who dreams of escaping her small town to become a singer. Fanning does her own singing in the film and proves really adept at it.
The film is the directorial debut of Max Minghella, son of the late Anthony who was of course most famous for helming The English Patient.