Tag Archives: leonard cohen

Bon Cinéma: The Montreal World Film Festival 2010

I made it to Montreal (aka Leonard Cohen worshipping central) a few days after the Montreal World Film Festival had started and hadn’t heard back from anyone regarding volunteering yet. So as soon as I’d checked into my accommodation I picked up a festival programme and went down to the Cartier Latin for my first doc screening of the week. I chatted a bit with the venue coordinator outside and through her got in touch with the volunteeer coordinator. Luckily he didn’t mind taking on an extra person and so on day two in Montreal I started my first official shift as a ‘pillow volunteer’.

My job was to hand out free pillows for people to sit on during the outdoor screenings on Place des Arts. The pillows, or ‘coussins’ in French, were sponsored by Loto Quebec and people were borrowing them for the screening and then returning them afterwards (at least that was the idea, they were so cool looking though, I’m sure we ‘lost’ a few every night). On the first night I was working with a guy called Charles, who lived nearby and whose wife always came to see the films with him. Once I’d learned the basic vocabulary like telling people to bring the pillows back afterwards everything went swimmingly. On the second night I started recognising returning audience members and some would come up and chat with us or would ask about the films.

It’s funny, when I was a student I worked on a strawberry field in Bavaria for a summer and before I started there, I could have never imagined how interesting this job would end up being. But it was. Pillow volunteering was a bit the same. Some interesting patterns started to emerge right from the start. There was a man who turned up every night. He was middle aged, had a beard and always a friendly smile on his face. He was usually one of the first people to arrive and would routinely plae his chair right in the centre in front of the screen and would then wait patiently for the movie to start. Then there were the families, little kids excitedly accepting the colourful pillows from me waving them around or using them as frisbies. And those who wanted a pillow of a particular colour. They were the ones I insisted on reminding that they were only borrowing them and had to return them afterwards. Some still wanted a red pillow instead of, say, a white one, as sitting on a red pillow would somehow be a better experience than sitting on a pillow of another colour?? I know, I didn’t get it either!

When I wasn’t handing out and collecting pillows I got to see a few more films, mainly documentaries of course. At some of the screenings the directors were present to answer questions from the audience after the film. I had never really thought about this much until recently but at every Q&A there seemed to be at least one person asking some sort of unusual, unrelated, unnecessary or plain stupid question. It was like they felt compelled to put up their hand and say something random like ‘During the whatever scene why was the male character sitting in a whatever car and why did he not take the bus instead?’ Some directors were kind of taken aback by that sort of thing and would go ‘ehem, well, you know…’ and then launch into some kind of explanation. Some others were obviously more prepared for it and graciously responded with ‘Thank you, you know that’s a good question. Next question?’ I mean, seriously, you worked very, very hard on a film for a long long time to tell the most amazing story and then all someone asks is ‘What was the title of the song at the end?’. Grrr.

I was very impressed with some films, like the German-Kenyan co-production Soul Boy, which had been produced with local film students and was thoroughly enjoyable and very well made. Other films, such as Nigatu: A Dream of Running, had theoretically a good story (a portray of a marathon runner trying to make it in the international race circuit) but seemed kind of static, just scraping the surface of what was happening and not revealing enough of the emotions of the characters involved. The first public screening of Japanese doc ‘Dancing Chaplin’ surprised me in a positive way on the other hand and was a lot more moving than I thought it would be.  All in all I’ve had a really interesting couple of days here, love experiencing a new place ‘through’ a festival, makes it always twice as exciting.

Fleadhed Out (in a Good Way): The Galway Film Fleadh 2010

This year I was lucky to be able to spend a whole week at the Galway Film Fleadh and I managed to see quite a few of the many intriguing Irish and international film screenings. I hadn’t volunteered with this festival before but it was pretty much business as usual: taking tickets, handing out audience award voting slips, cleaning up the venues and helping with all sorts of other events and tasks. There were some familiar volunteer faces from Guth Gafa and, as with every good festival, lots of friendly repeat volunteers. A bonus with this event was that we got vouchers for some excellent Spanish food by Cava who supplied the hospitality tent, i.e. the Rowing Club,  all week with their yummy tapas.

At the start of the fleadh I did a good few shifts in the Cinemobile (fond memories of its weekend residency in Gortahork in June), which to me always feels a bit like being on a ship, especially when it rains. You welcome the punters on board the ‘cinema vessel’ and it’s all cosy with a hundred red seats inside and the rain drumming on the roof outside. My first highlight of the week was in the Town Hall though, a late screening of Leonard Cohen: Live at the Isle of Wight 1970. While it could have done with some more creative editing, it was amazing to see the doc again, this time on a really big screen. Just a pity I couldn’t really sing along like last time in Barcelona surrounded by die hard Leonard fans, but it was lovely all the same (especially as I’ll be missing the Sligo gigs this summer, sniff).

I tried to catch as many of the documentaries as possible as that’s what I’m currently most excited about. Some very good ones indeed, many different styles and stories from all corners of the globe, each of them moving in their own unique way. Favourites included The Beholder, Kings of Pastry, The Pipe, Counting Sheep, Men Who Swim, Steam of Life, Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement, Exit Through The Gift Shop (about Banksy) and some of the short docs on Sunday morning such as If These Walls Could Talk, Alibi, Bow Street and Bye Bye Now. Another highlight was the panel discussion with Lee Unkrich (director) and Darla K. Anderson (producer) of Pixar’s Toy Story 3. To hear about their Brain Trust concept and the detail they put into their films (down to editing voiceovers at individual syllable level!) was pretty astonishing. Also caught a directors talk on Saturday with Dieter Auner (Counting Sheep), Dylan Williams (Men Who Swim) and Joonas Berghäll (Steam of Life) chaired by Irish documentary filmmaker Anna Rodgers. It is truly amazing how much blood, sweat and tears goes into the making of a feature documentary. The amount of dedication, resilience, passion, diplomacy and ability to fundraise needed to complete a doc is absolutely incredible and made me appreciate seeing the completed films even more.

I’m a bit too fleadhed out at this stage to remember much else, but some of the feature films I saw, including The Runway and The Kids Are All Right (Irish release around October I think), definitely also deserve a mention. Brendan Gleeson, who replaced Annette Bening, who had to pull out of the Galway visit due to unforseen circumstances, was a highlight as well. His public interview was as humorous, wise and warm-hearted as the man himself (thankfully there are still actors like him around, he might just be one of the very last of a pretty endangered species). Here are this year’s award winners. The party on Sunday night with Alabama 3 (sang theme tune for The Sopranos) and lots of delicious tapas and wine nicely rounded off an exciting week of fantastic films. The festival organisers seemed really happy with both the buzz around town as well as the ticket sales throughout the week. It’s so heartening to see how many people still want to see independent films and how many great quality features, docs and shorts make it to the screens every year despite the odds being very much stacked against them. This is no doubt due to the hard work and dedication of countless individuals producing, mentoring, working, directing, acting and organising behind and in front of the camera who never seem to tire of keeping the magic of filmmaking alive for all of us. Bless them!

How The Light Gets In: Leonard Cohen ‘Festival’ Returns to Dublin

Prologue: As far as I’m concerned there are only two types of people in this world. Those who adore Leonard Cohen’s music and those who just haven’t had a chance (or the sense) yet to truly appreciate his poetry, charisma and sense of humour. May you be lucky enough to get converted before it is too late.

Last weekend I had no idea that I would be spending four nights this week at the O2 listening to Leonard Cohen live. In fact, I had no idea even 3 hours before the gig. I hadn’t been sure if I’d be in Dublin in July, so hadn’t bought any tickets in advance. Of course come July I regretted this immensely. But then the most amazing things started to happen…
Sunday, 19 July
5pm: sitting at the computer looking at videos of last year’s Leonard gigs and telling myself how could I be so stupid NOT to buy a ticket for the upcoming concerts in the O2 in Dublin.
6pm: decision taken, cycling down to the O2 on the off chance to secure a ticket last minute.
6.45pm: very little happening, people with happy faces filing past me tickets in hand (damn!)
7pm: a woman asks if I’m looking for a ticket (you bet I am!), get it much cheaper than expected, can’t believe my luck, feel like I’ve just won the lottery!
8pm: Leonard appears on stage to rapturous applause, oh my God, so good to see him again live, have to pinch myself to believe this is actually happening
9pm: a break, phew, texting friends to say I got in, what a night
10.30pm: Leonard still on stage, audience delirious, another half hour of encores to come, we are so lucky
11pm: cycling home in the rain, my head pleasantly spinning with the most beautiful music and poetry and the memory of Leonard’s crooked smile, no matter what happens no one can take this away from me

LC no hat

 Monday, 20 July
10am: at work, trying hard to concentrate on important things (if they only knew)
4pm: hours passing by very slowly, getting another coffee
6pm: off to the O2 again, yippieh
7pm: I can’t believe I’m doing this to myself again, last night I was somewhat excited and hopeful but not expecting too much, tonight I’m biting my fingernails praying to secure another ticket
7.30pm: not looking good, nobody selling any tickets, still trying to stay positive (ommm…)
7.40pm: can’t believe it, a young guy comes up to me asking if I’m looking for a ticket, his friend couldn’t make it, get it for next to nothing, unbelievable, I’m in again!
8pm: absolutely outstanding performance again, So Long Marianne just incredible, audience singing like one big choir, we can see Leonard is impressed, crooked smile showing even more often than yesterday, all on stage more relaxed than the night before, I’m loving it, wouldn’t wanna be anywhere else in the world
9pm: break, starting to get used to the O2, great sound, they also fixed the delay problem with the screens since yesterday, full house again (seating capacity ca. 9.500), amazing atmosphere
11pm: another brilliant gig over, everyone reluctantly shuffling outside disappearing into the Dublin night
11.15pm: going for a pint with the guy who sold me the ticket, we start talking about past travels and realise that we met once before, in 2006 in Christchurch, New Zealand – life is full of surprises, incredible!
View of crowd and stage from G
Tuesday, 21 July
Day off for Leonard, I’m listening to the Live in London CD all day, two down, two more to go (hoping and praying), it is a long long Leonardless day
Wednesday, 22 July
8am: I wake up, first thing on my mind is tonight, will I be able to pull off a hat-trick and get in again?
10am: several colleagues and friends as well as my hairdresser and my landlord have by now all been at one of the gigs, everyone raving about how good it was
1pm: trying to secure ticket for tonight’s gig online, if nothing works out it will have to be the nerves-of-steel-test outside the O2 again, bracing myself already
3.30pm: coffee break, humming Hallelujah while the water is boiling and getting a sympathetic smile from a colleague who’s in the know
5.30pm: cannot believe it, get a text that someone has a ticket for me for tonight, I can pick it up later, I am one happygirl indeed
6pm: would ‘normally’ be on my way to the O2 by now, but have to be at a work meeting which goes on until at least 9pm, patience has never been one of my strengths, trying my best not to run out the door before it’s finished, sigh…
9.10pm: Leonard must by now have finished the first half, colleague giving me a lift in the car down to the O2, I ring the woman who has the spare ticket, they wouldn’t let her leave the ticket at the box office, so have to find her somehow, time running out as break almost over, I try and locate where she says she is, glad I’ve been here twice before this week, feel like I know the place inside and out, finally see her coming towards me waving the ticket in the air, hallelujah, I can hear the announcement for the end of the break and make my way to my seat, trying to calm my breathing down as I settle in for the second part of the show, Leonard comes on stage again, Tower of Song, here we go again!
11.05pm: Leonard finishes the night off with Lullaby (only time during the four gigs), so special, don’t want to go home, he bows and puts his hands together as in prayer, then walks off quietly with the rest of the band, not skipping this time even though this and his mischievous smile is what I’ll always remember
Setlist of 23 July gig

Setlist of 23 July gig

Thursday, 23 July
10am: at work, the LC marathon continues, thinking about tonight and whether I will be lucky again, lots of good reviews about the gigs in the past couple of days, there might be more competition for last minute tickets this time 
5.45pm: counting down the minutes before I can race out of the office again
7pm: waiting for the miracle, very different atmosphere outside tonight, lots of people walking around asking for spare tickets, some are lucky but pay the full price
7.20pm: a guy passes his ‘ticket required’ poster on to me, I hold it up in the hope of attracting some sellers, touts making the rounds, getting a bit cold outside, really wish somebody would offer me a ticket sometime soon, Dave Fanning walks past, Kila piper Eoin Dillon also, I want to be on the guestlist too 
7.30pm: haha, notice that the other side of the makeshift poster is a vet form stating that somebody’s toy poodle needs his ears cleaned, whaaa?
7.40pm: a friend of mine turns up to help me sort out a ticket, mission ticket for Leonard’s last gig looking more and more impossible, wonder if I should sit down on the footpath and have a good cry and maybe someone will take pity on me, decide against it (prefer to cry happy tears later)
8pm: the concert has started, oh nooooo, not a happy girl, not a happy girl at all…then suddenly a woman walks towards us, she has one ticket for sale, OMG (!!!), then like from out of nowhere a tout appears and trys to buy it before I can say yes, I’ll take it, arrgghh, but my friend tells him to f* off in a polite enough way not to cause any of us any harm, I quickly arrange a price with the woman and find myself holding ‘the golden ticket to Leonard’s last gig in Dublin’ (maybe ever, better not think about that now)
8.05pm: I race past everyone else who’s late and try and find my seat in the dark, Leonard just finishing off the first song, Dance Me To The End of Love, the woman who sold me the ticket arrives shortly after, she’s lovely, most people are at Leonard’s gigs, singing or humming along with their favourite songs
8.50pm: a woman in the row in front of us gets up two songs before the break, returns with popcorn a few minutes later, obviously hadn’t been to any other gigs before where Leonard asked us to ‘be kind’ (as in the opposite of selfish, hint)
9pm: break, getting some merchandise, mentally preparing myself for the next hour and a half of musical bliss, then, while queueing for some icecream I find myself unexpectedly wondering how a 74 year-old can still be so damn sexy…it seems a strange thought but overhearing conversations of other female concert goers I’m not the only one thinking this…hm)
10.40pm: If It Be Your Will even more heartbreakingly beautiful than the other nights, Leonard reciting the first part then Hattie and Charley’s voices in perfect harmony accompanied by the sound of the harp, tissue time for me, again
11.10pm: last finale in Dublin, Leonard says thank you, thank you, thank you, he looks exhausted but exhilarated, there is the lovely smile for the last time…will never forget this amazing week, a dream come true…
11.50pm: at home on the internet booking a flight to Barcelona and a ticket for Leonard’s 75 birthday gig on 21 September, something to look forward to at least, easing the withdrawal symptoms for a while, already counting the days…
20 07 09 Crowd 1
Epilogue: There have been many times in my life when things were not quite going as expected and I sometimes thought is this ever going to get any better? Weeks like this one are proof to me that life has always some more happy moments in store for us no matter how low we sometimes feel. There is, after all, as Leonard so succinctly wrote, a crack in everything and that is how the light gets in. Hallelujah!
Official Leonard Cohen Website http://www.leonardcohen.com
More information on the exceptional musicians here
Some video links
20 July 2009:
Hattie & Charley doing their ‘angel cartwheel’  – check out their own website and tour blog here
22 July 2009:
Lullaby (shortish but got it)  
23 July 2009: