Leonard Cohen: The CBC-designated Melancholy Bard
The CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) has conveniently packaged a series of performances by and interviews with Leonard Cohen from their TV and radio archives under the title, Leonard Cohen: Canada’s Melancholy Bard. While the quality varies from clip to clip, there is substantial entertainment, information, and insight to be gleaned from this treasury.
The series is plotted in chronological order from Poet, 22, splashes on to world stage in 1958 to Leonard Cohen looks back (two parts), an interview that took place in February 2006. The symbols on the timeline above indicate the dates of the available clips.
The Leonard Cohen-This Hour Has Seven Days Interview
My vote for Best Of Show among the clips comprising Leonard Cohen: Canada’s Melancholy Bard is On the road to singing sensation , which was originally broadcast in conjunction with the publication of Cohen’s novel, “Beautiful Losers,” in 1966 on This Hour Has Seven Days.1
She is, in fact, recognized as a pioneer in investigative reporting and as an accomplished documentary filmmaker.
While working for the CBC, she was known for her insightful and critical examinations of U.S. politics, the feminist movement, and racial conflicts. She was also a groundbreaking critic of the role of the U.S. in the Vietnam War.2
She continued making documentaries and, later, feature films after leaving the CBC in 1966.
Accordingly, the interview is not a puff piece nor are her queries to Cohen softballs lobbed over the plate to make the star look good. The conversation is challenging, engaging, personal, and even edgy in a place or two.
In addition, there seems to be, especially on Ms Fox’s part, elements of sexual tension and flirtatiousness.
Note: It does appear that on the date of the interview, either Ms Fox had the misfortune to experience a catastrophically bad hair day or a small mammal somehow landed on her head and took up residence there. The composite photo below provides a more balanced perspective on her appearance.
Leonard Cohen exercises the poet’s prerogative of re-interpreting and manipulating her words and his own to distract and deflect. A trivial but nonetheless amusing example follows:
Leonard Cohen: I always had this feeling that new things were beginning, and I thought that I would change my name and get a tattoo.
Beryl Fox: Where?
Leonard Cohen: There’s this place on St. Lawrence Blvd.
The interviewer’s facial expression at that point is a bonus.
Cohen is provocative, claiming, for example, that Canada has no government and that any couple not in love should be divorced. Fox presses (at one point she asks how Cohen’s mother reacted to reviews calling his book pornographic) but does so politely and does not redirect her interviewee when he flares off on his tangent of choice.
It is rewarding viewing.
The clips of Leonard Cohen: Canada’s Melancholy Bard begin with
Poet, 22, splashes on to world stage
The Leonard Cohen -This Hour Has Seven Days Interview discussed above is found at On the road to singing sensation
Leonard Cohen -This Hour Has Seven Days Interview
- This Hour Has Seven Days was a CBC Television newsmagazine inspired by the British satire series That Was The Week That Was. It was also controversial enough that after a two year run, it was taken off the air following the 1966 season. [↩]
- The AV Trust Of Canada lauds her 1965 documentary, “The Mills of the Gods: Viet Nam,” in this excerpt:
Beryl Fox’s The Mills of the Gods remains the quintessential example of Canadian documentary filmmaking. Fox takes us into the Vietnam War and allows us to see first hand the futility, sorrow and inhumanity at its core. Her theme of the conflict between people and ideologies is a universal and timeless one, told through haunting sound and visual images. Today, 34 years after it was first telecast, scenes of brutal civilian casualties, torture of POW’s, and gleeful napalm bombing still shock and outrage us. Contrasted with this horror are scenes from the everyday life of the Vietnamese peasantry, working in the fields, shopping in the market, going to school. Fox creates for the viewer a sense of tension and foreboding, ultimately borne out in images of death, destruction and bodybags on the nightly news. The Mills of the Gods transcends the banality of mass media images of war and still retains its extraordinary power and poignancy.
A clip of the film is available at ~The Mills of the Gods: Viet Nam~ [↩]