In the canon of great songwriters, few names loom as large as Leonard Cohen. The Canadian singer-songwriter pursued a career as a poet before pivoting to music later in life, and that sensibility comes through in his haunting, spiritual lyrics. While songs like “Hallelujah” and “Bird on a Wire” have permeated pop culture, largely as a result of other people covering them, Cohen’s own discography of albums provides a treasure trove of smart, poetic gems for music fans willing to look closely enough.
From folk-tinged classics like “Songs of Love and Hate” to his late-career, mortality-centric masterpieces like “Old Ideas” and “You Want It Darker,” Cohen’s unique voice never failed to captivate his legions of devoted fans. But while his literary prowess is rivaled by few, his enigmatic personality and relative lack of mainstream popularity make him something of a mystery to many music lovers.
“Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song,” a new documentary from Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine (“The Galapagos Affair”), seeks to change that. The film, which had a successful festival run in 2021 starting in Venice, explores Cohen’s lifelong journey as a songwriter and frequent artistic evolutions. From his struggles to find commercial success in an industry that did not quite know how to embrace him, to his stint as a Zen monk and his eventual return to touring at the end of his life, “Hallelujah” hopes to offer the most expansive cinematic look at Cohen’s career to date. Whether you’re a longtime devotee of Cohen’s or a newcomer who first encountered his songwriting in Rufus Wainwright’s cover in “Shrek,” the film should be can’t-miss viewing.
In her IndieWire review, Ella Kemp wrote that “to search for any one answer to explain the sacred magic of ‘Hallelujah’ and the meticulous, torturous effort that got Cohen there would be to strip it of the very thing that makes it so precious. And so we join his journey, this song’s kaleidoscopic journey, for a brief moment in time — before it continues long after we’re gone.”
Sony Pictures Classics will release “Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song” in select theaters on July 1, 2022. Watch the trailer, an IndieWire exclusive, below.
The film also premieres at Tribeca on June 12.