Dayna Goldfine and Dan Geller pay tribute to the man born with the gift of a golden voice in “Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song,” a documentary exploring the origin story and legacy of Cohen’s seminal, oft-covered anthem. “You look around and see a world that cannot be made sense of — you either raise your fist, or you say ‘hallelujah,’” the late Canadian singer-songwriter, poet, and novelist observes. He stresses that “people have been singing that word for thousands of years,” but, as his many famous admirers emphasize throughout the doc, Cohen transformed the word and its meaning by interpreting it through his unique lens.
To say that writing “Hallelujah” was a laborious process is an understatement. It is the result of an all-encompassing, painstaking spiritual journey. “I always thought I sweated over this stuff,” Cohen says, but “Hallelujah” redefined his exacting standards. It took him years to write the beloved classic, filling notebook after notebook with rejected lyrics. At one point he recalls being so frustrated by it that he was left banging his head on the floor of his hotel room.
Paying particular attention to Cohen’s religious and spiritual identity, the doc sees Cohen being described as a “seeker.” “Unlocking the mysteries of life was his primary preoccupation,” we’re told. In tracing the evolution of “Hallelujah,” it’s clear that the song wouldn’t exist were that not the case.
When, at long last, Cohen finished composing the song and recorded it, he and his collaborators were convinced they had something special. Cohen’s record label disagreed. Columbia Records rejected the album it was a part of, “Various Positions,” unconvinced of its commercial viability. Though they had already paid for the album, they opted not to release it in the U.S.
It wasn’t until John Cale recorded a cover “Hallelujah” that it started to develop a following. Jeff Buckley and Rufus Wainwright’s takes on the song, the latter of which appeared on the “Shrek” soundtrack, made it the instantly recognizable smash hit it is today, a staple of talent competitions like “American Idol” and “The X Factor.”
In charting the song’s unlikely path to chart-topping success, the documentary also honors the artists who helped introduce it to the masses and those who continue to be inspired by “Hallelujah” and perform it. Besides Buckley and Wainwright, that list includes Grammy winner Brandi Carlile, who speaks movingly about her relationship to the song in regards to her sexuality and religion.
“Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song” isn’t just about the man or the story behind his magnum opus — it’s an exploration of how and why “Hallelujah” resonates so deeply with so many listeners. Cohen died in 2016, but “a very broken hallelujah” continues to ring out in his absence.
“Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song” is now in theaters.
Source by womenandhollywood.com