With Nick Broomfield’s documentary Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love, an in-depth look at the relationship between Leonard Cohen and muse Marianne Ihlen, playing at the Edinburgh International Film Festival this month and on general release in July, we thought it an appropriate time to highlight some of our favourite Cohen needle drops in cinema.
Whether with his own voice or through cover versions, many films and TV shows have made stirring use of Cohen’s music, though there is no instance in which the songs in question were written with the intention of featuring in that movie or episode.
For inclusion in the small selection below, we’ve stuck to the following criteria: feature films only, one entry per song, and Cohen recordings only, not covers of his work…
Full feature for The Skinny
From Bronson and Valhalla Rising to Drive, Only God Forgives and The Neon Demon, Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn has a reputation for filtering all sorts of reference points, from cinema or other artforms, into movies that never quite feel like anything else out there, even if it might initially seem clear what you’re going to get from a surface glance.
The director’s passion for the idiosyncratic recently extended to the world of digital media with byNWR.com, where an exclusive film – a restored lost gem with little to no previous cultural legacy – is presented each month as a jumping off point to inspire creativity. Although film and the moving image takes up the bulk of the venture’s content right now, the site is moving into music. And not only music, but music festival collaborations.
As part of this year’s Black Deer Festival in Kent, a specially-curated trilogy of films will be presented for the first time in a new form, under the banner of byNWR Expressway. In keeping with the spirit of the Americana and country music-focused festival, each film harks back to America’s drive-in heyday…
Full interview for The Line of Best Fit
Set in Scotland in 1994, Beats follows two teenage best friends, Johnno (Cristian Ortega) and Spanner (Lorn Macdonald), heading out for one final night together at an illegal rave before life takes them in different directions. Johnno’s family, encouraged by his de facto stepfather Robert (Brian Ferguson), are due to move to a newly built house in the distant suburbs. Spanner’s prospects, meanwhile, look next to zero in the context of local poverty and his relationship with his abusive criminal brother, Fido (Neil Leiper).
Directed and co-written by Brian Welsh, Beats is adapted from Kieran Hurley’s acclaimed one-man stage show, which presented converging stories in the wake of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act’s impact on rave culture. Section 63 of that act gave law enforcement the power to stop any gatherings of more than 20 people in open air settings when listening to music, “Wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats.”
There’s an end of an era quality to the film’s portrayal of the 90s scene, and while raving didn’t disappear after 1994, the rest of the decade saw a form of it move into the more corporate club scene, heavy on brand image, where the experience, as influenced by those changes in the law, became more homogenised…
Full interview for the BFI
Some backstory first: the legend behind The Legend, if you will. In the early ‘80s, Macoto Tezka, the son of “godfather of manga” Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy), was a film student with few credits to his name beyond some experimental shorts. In 1985, at age 22, he met musician and TV personality Haruo Chicada, who had composed a soundtrack for a movie that didn’t actually exist yet: The Legend of the Stardust Brothers.
Chicada used his clout to get an adaptation of his fake soundtrack made into a feature-length musical, with Tezka directing. The budget was sizeable and some of Japan’s most famous musicians of the time were on board, while various prominent names in manga were among the assembled crew; Kiyoshi Kurosawa, a director who would become much famous later for films like Pulse and Cure, even has a supporting role as an actor…
Full review for SciFiNow
Lola Kirke is perched at the table of an east London restaurant, surrounded by the remnants of scones. Though enthusiastic and engaging in conversation, the 28-year-old actor and musician is prone to getting distracted: on this occasion, it’s a fellow customer wearing a beret with the term ‘Solidarity’ on it that has interrupted her train of thought. “I think that’s hysterical,” she says, genuinely delighted…
Full interview for HUCK
We all have our blind spots when it comes to cinema – and that’s a good thing. Being passionate about film is being open to discovery and constantly looking to fill in gaps in one’s knowledge. But when you get to a certain age and also happen to work in film journalism, not having seen certain pop culture touchstones starts to stick out. Until very recently, my biggest blind spot – at least in terms of a film it seemed everyone had seen at least once – was Grease.
And yet, through cultural osmosis, I’ve always felt like I have seen Grease. Not only did I know most of the songs, I knew most of the words to most of the songs. What I didn’t know was what a peculiar musical it is. Take the title track, for instance, which plays over the opening credits and is one of the few songs I hadn’t heard before. One of four original songs written for the film (this one by Barry Gibb), the disco number feels surprisingly at odds with the late-’50s/early ‘60s style of the rest of the soundtrack. It’s a catchy tune, but seems as though it’s been included merely to forge a connection between the film and star John Travolta’s earlier Bee Gees-scored hit, Saturday Night Fever. It’s a curious identity crisis moment, but then perhaps it’s appropriate given the narrative arcs of the film’s leading pair…
Full feature for Little White Lies