Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Leonard Cohen (or: The style of his soul)

You know those friends who are just 8000 times cooler than you are? The ones who are constantly introducing you to the amazing things that they love and then you love them too because they are just so perfect? My friend Claire is like that. I first met Claire when she was 12 and I was 13. She had doc martens with googly eyes glued onto them, and an older sister who was dating a guy she met on the Internet and let us tag along to punk shows with her. Claire was (and often still is) absolutely the arbiter of cool in my life. Among (many) other things she introduced me to the amazingness of photographer David LaChapelle, the films of Luc Besson, and, perhaps most importantly, the beauty of Leonard Cohen. I’m sure I had heard of Leonard Cohen before, but everything crystallized on the afternoon we sat on the couch in her basement, about 15 or 16-years-old, and she put on Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Leonard Cohen, a documentary made by the NFB in 1965.

Claire was in love, swooning with her typical enthusiasm, and it took only a couple of minutes for me to join her in a state of teenage adulation, the two of us completely enraptured by this man who was once described by a journalist as having “the stoop of an aged crop picker, and the face of a curious little boy.”

It’s that gleam in his eye, his engaged manner, his sense of humour, and of course, his (sigh) poetry.

(Beneath My Hands, from “The Spice Box of Earth”

Beneath my hands
your small breasts
are the upturned bellies
of breathing fallen sparrows.

Wherever you move
I hear the sounds of closing wings
of falling wings.

I am speechless
because you have fallen beside me
because your eyelashes
are the spines of tiny fragile animals.

I dread the time
when your mouth
begins to call me hunter.

When you call me close
to tell me
your body is not beautiful
I want to summon
the eyes and hidden mouths
of stone and light and water
to testify against you.

I want them
to surrender before you
the trembling rhyme of your face
from their deep caskets.

When you call me close
to tell me
your body is not beautiful
I want my body and my hands
to be pools
for your looking and laughing.)

Oh wows.

This is one of my few adolescent crushes that has lasted.

Knowing that the NFB website has tons of films available online I searched for Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Leonard Cohen and there it was, all 44 minutes and 6 seconds of it. The film captures Mr. Cohen as he makes his way around his hometown of Montreal, recording poetry and meeting fawning fans. The film is full of amazing 60s fashion. And hair. Ohmygod the hair.

This girl is my favourite:

Look closely at her hair.

It’s a weird Vidal Sassoon style bob bouffant hybrid. I wonder if she’s using some early-model bumpit. Whatever she’s doing, it’s amazing. Also, check out the lustful gaze she’s throwing at Leonard. The film is full of such intense stares. While you’re looking at her come home with me eyes, please note her amazing glasses (and the way they just disappear into her hair like that – fascinating). I have an immense fondness for vintage eyeware, and watching this film I was in a fairly constant state of covetousness. Just look at all of the great frames on the audience at a reading:

And this girl, with her shy flirting style:

And this charming young man, with his great zip-up cardigan (my favourite thing about black and white movies is you can make the clothes any colour you want in your imagination. In mine this sweater is a sort of grey-blue-green, like beach glass.):

This woman’s classic cats eye frames were my absolute favourite (though I may also have been charmed by her laugh):

And this girl’s sunglasses just look so cool and fresh with her hair pulled back like this:

There was also some fairly fabulous makeup going on, like this girl’s intense fake eyelashes:

And this woman’s great eyeliner:

As for outfits, I have always thought leopard print coats are pretty much the coolest things imaginable.

But this guy is hands down the best dressed person in the film:

I am in awe of how cool he is. I would like people to start wearing bow ties like that one again soon, please (speaking of, I’m totally in love with these Forage bow ties, found via oh joy!). His girlfriend is also amazing. In fact, this file is called bestcoupleever.jpg on my computer.

Also, I’m not sure what it is about her, but the girl looking at the camera in this shot just struck me as so perfect.

I think it’s the hair. I love short hair (and am so in favour of Miss Emma Watson’s recent cut).

Anyways, if you haven’t seen this before, I highly recommend you go watch it. Leonard Cohen’s voice +1960s Montreal + vintage fashion = a wonderful way to spend a rainy afternoon.

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  1. […] may be over – sigh – but my affected use of the word y’all remains) know how much I love eyeglasses, be they vintage or, in this case, vintage […]

  2. […] may be over – sigh – but my affected use of the word y’all remains) know how much I love eyeglasses, be they vintage or, in this case, vintage […]

  3. […] may be over – sigh – but my affected use of the word y’all remains) know how much I love eyeglasses, be they vintage or, in this case, vintage […]



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