Film Reviews

Marianne & Leonard and Broomfield’s Love Triangle

Doc explores the relationship of Leonard Cohen and his muse Marianne Ihlen - and director Nick Broomfield’s relationship to them


Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love
(USA/UK, 97 min.)
Dir. Nick Broomfield

Nick Broomfield has rightfully earned an obnoxious reputation for injecting himself into every story he tells. (Watch his take on Tupac for the most egregious example of this crime.) It’s all the more ironic then that Marianne & Leonard seems to be his most effective turn at having the focus stay largely on the central protagonists, given that there is actually is an intimate connection between filmmaker and subject.

The story of the love between Leonard Cohen and his muse Marianne Ihlen resulted in some of the greatest works of popular culture. The film does a lovely job of presenting the struggling Leonard being buttressed by his exotic and supportive muse Marianne whole making his life warmer on the Greek island of Hydra. The fact that Broomfield himself had a contemporaneous love affair with Marianne, and she was the cause of him pursuing filmmaking, is a fact that the director deals with relatively quickly and without too much distraction.

Thanks to concert footage, interesting interviews, and the magnetism of seeing Cohen on screen, Marianne and Leonard manages to provide the right balance of historical context and new insight into this tenuous idea that an artist needs a muse to kickstart creativity. This is a love story pure and simple, and thankfully Broomfield’s own love for the subject makes him all the more careful to ensure the focus remains pointed to this remarkable woman and the men with which she surrounded herself.

Marianne & Leonard opens in theatres beginning July 12.

Originally reviewed at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.