An Expat Life: Nicaragua Blues and Ruse

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Ladies And Gentlemen, Mr. Leonard Cohen...

This guy is something else. Kim and I watched this gem of a film last night. What an inspiration! Cohen truly is a genius, a man that will be talked about long after we're all gone. He makes me want to wear a beret and wax poetic about everything I see around me.....and that's saying something!

Let me start out by saying that it is my hope to make movie and album reviews a regular part of Ramblin Round Managua. You see, I'm adding a little structure to this place, tidying up a bit. Every once in a while, one's mind could use a little order I suppose. It should be no different with the articulated thought process, placed upon the electrically clicking display pad that grants a journey within one's mind. So, with that said, here goes....

Leonard Cohen...circa 1965. Canada's public broadcasting channel aired a documentary, chronicling the life and, more important, the 'lifestyle' of its up-and-coming poet. As of the filming of this short black and white film, Cohen had yet to pick up a guitar and put his words to music. He was, first and foremost, a McGill University educated poet, a well-to-do Montreal jew, exploring the boundaries of society through the expanded parameters afforded by his lineage. Given the luxury of financial security and grounded social status, Cohen embarks on a life of bohemian discovery, perusing the dark underbelly of Montreal's streets and the caste of high society, effortlessly and without pretense. He is a child, being reborn every day, asking fundamental questions, discovering the world through an unorthadox lens. Getting a haircut is an adventure, a philosophical endeavor.

In a theme that still rings true to this day, he seeks to preserve the 'self' in an increasingly monolithic, capitalistic Western world. Before the hypocrisy and demise of the youth movement of the 60s became apparent, Cohen illustrates, through his lifestyle, that the preservation of the 'self' is indeed possible. Using the I Ching as his guide, he journeys to Hydra, a remote Greek isle, lacking electricity, cars, and other accoutrements of modernity. There, he observes the world around him, toggling between two worlds, like a poet should I suppose.

Interestingly, two films come to mind immediately when comparing the early life of Mr. Cohen; The Graduate and Don't Look Back. The latter has obvious similarities. In a sense, Dylan's 1965 documentary, 'Don't Look Back' is the American 'answer' to Canada's 'Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr Leonard Cohen'....they are North American bookends throughout the latter half of the twentieth century. In 1965, both are at a crossroads. Cohen with his departure from poetry and into a life of song, and Dylan with his transformation into a rock star, eschewing the role of poet and spokesperson for a generation. Both begin to look inward, exploring the dark realm of 'self' through their music. As for 'The Graduate', well.....the similarities are more superficial. Cohen just kind of looks like Dustin Hoffman's 'Benjamin'. He carries himself the same way, has a waifish, awkward look of an early twentysomething recent graduate. However, Cohen exudes a certain confidence that Hoffman's character only realizes in the last 10 minutes of his film.

In all, I highly recommend this film to anyone that in interested in bohemian lifestyles, poets, the counterculture before it was undermined and debased. Cohen personified everything that was good about the new left in North America. Apolitical now, he was then a leader, a person to be trusted, when during the heady times of the 1960s. I trust he'll be remembered that way as well, through his music and writing. I give this film 5 RR points out of 5. Good day to you all...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Managua,

I'm sure you have good taste in some things, but on your recommendation I rushed to my county library and got a Leonard Cohen CD - played it as a little dinner music for my husband and me. YECCHH! My cooking is bad enough without getting depressed by the music.

Looking forward to your next recommendation.

Ma Wopat