Letter from Deauville: David Bowie and Leonard Cohen on the boards

Posted Sep 5, 2022, 2:48 PM

Already shown at Cannes last May, “Moonage Daydream” will be released in theaters on September 21. It is not exactly a biographical documentary but rather a unique portrait. The film is therefore intended to be less informative than evocative. Through a gigantic visual and sound work, a tapestry of archives where images of NASA, excerpts from great cinema classics, completely forgotten films, newsreels and other clips, Brett Morgen reproduces the crazy creative whirlwind that surrounded David Bowie. At least until 1980, since the filmmaker seems to suggest that his subject then mutates into a more conventional pop idol.

However, it was in 1983, at the age of 36, that Bowie reached the height of his glory with the album “Let’s Dance”.

The Cohen Freighter

A year later, Leonard Cohen came out desperate for an appointment at Columbia Records. The studio refuses to distribute its seventh album “Various Positions” on American soil. Cohen has just turned 50 and “Various Positions” notably contains “Hallelujah”, which he took more than 5 years to write. Directed by Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine “Hallelujah, the Words of Leonard Cohen” (out October 19) follows the Canadian bard’s fate through the story of this extraordinary song. Slowly, over the decades and covers of John Cale or Jeff Buckley, “Hallelujah” will establish itself as an anthem; one of those airs, so rare, which, from the very first notes, raise the hands and fill the eyes with tears.

However, Leonard Cohen, isolated in a Buddhist monastery, did not compose or write at all between 1994 and 2001. Then, in 2008, he made his big comeback on stage during a world tour. Cohen twirls and wraps the crowds with a mischievous look or a simple wave of the hand… until thousands of voices take up “Hallelujah” in a pagan prayer. The singer is well over 70 years old. The editing of the film follows the quiet roll of this existence, this gentle and yet powerful rhythm. Cohen will have gone through his time like an unsinkable freighter.

Last smiles

David Bowie and Leonard Cohen both died in 2016. One was 69 and the other 82. Throughout his life, Bowie never stopped transforming and reinventing himself like a pop chameleon. Cohen him, seems to have never changed. For decades, he will have carried around his sharp elegance and this face that seemed sketched in charcoal by Hugo Pratt. Bowie was a born showman, Cohen a brilliant introvert. Bowie was overflowing, as if to speed up time and get ahead of the future. Cohen worked like a potter, patiently chiselling a form of perfection, detached from the fashions of the present. That’s why there are more than 180 versions of “Hallelujah”. However, these two artists shared the same spiritual quest and this dizzying question: what to do with this time given to us, once only?

On their last photos, these two singers who have everything opposed look strangely alike. Each reaches eternity in a dark suit, with a felt hat and a big smile. Hallelujah, let’s dance!


Moonage Daydream

by Brett Morgan. 2:20 a.m. Released September 21.

Hallelujah, the words of Leonard Cohen

by Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine. 2:03 a.m. Released October 19

The Deauville American Film Festival continues until September 11. Info. festival-deauville.com.

Letter from Deauville: David Bowie and Leonard Cohen on the boards