Sunday’s Jewish Film Festival documentary is, “Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen. A Journey. A Song.” Based on the book by Alan Light, “The Holy and the Broken.
Leonard, Cohen, Jeff Buckley & the Unlikely Ascent of Hallelujah,” the film “wraps a circumspect biography of the singer –loaded with archival footage and interviews with sundry friends and admirers... around the story of the song ( NYT). The film answers the question, “[h]ow did one obscure song become an international anthem for human triumph and tragedy, a song each successive generation seems to feel they have discovered and claimed as uniquely their own?”
Leonard Cohen was raised by an upper class, orthodox Jewish family in Quebec. After graduating college and attending graduate school at Columbia University he withdrew to focus on his writing. Pursuing a life-long spiritual search, many of his themes, especially earlier ones, were influenced by the old testament. In later years, he embraced Zen Buddhism. A prolific writer of poetry collections and novels, Cohen did not enter the music business until his 30’s, when Judy Collins recorded one of his poems, “Suzanne,” and encouraged him to write more music. He did, and also began to perform his work, eventually releasing several albums for Columbia Records. Despite his unorthodox singing style, he had enormous success early on and toured world-wide.