He’s your man: 4 films featuring the music of Leonard Cohen
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Leonard Cohen’s influence on modern music is immeasurable. Not only has he inspired countless musicians, his music is the brooding, go-to mood setter for everything from Lost to Kindred: The Embraced. On Friday, March 15 at the Milwaukee Theatre, Milwaukee will host a stop on what could be the last tour of a modern legend of songwriting. For those not lucky enough to attend the concert (tickets are still available), The A.V. Club has assembled a list of some of the better films featuring Cohen’s music. Ticket holders may also view these films to get pumped for the show, but they should be aware that somewhere, perhaps at the very same time, someone in Milwaukee is very, very jealous.
McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)
The film: Robert Altman rose to fame on the strength of M*A*S*H, a deconstruction of war films set at a military field hospital. This entry into his filmography stands as a deconstruction of the western, the first of many in the decade.
The scene: Warren Beatty rides into town, muttering to himself.
The song: “The Stranger Song” sets the tone of the movie: gritty, rebellious, and ready to knock over some sacred cows.
The line: “He wants to trade the game he knows for shelter.”
The film: Zac Snyder’s hit-or-miss adaptation of the influential graphic novel showed how fucked-up and dysfunctional superheroes could be. It also allowed comic book nerds to use the term “graphic novel” with an air of smug superiority.
The scene: Nite Owl and Silk Spectre consummate their relationship after a long night of fighting crime in Nite Owl’s hovercraft.
The song: “Hallelujah” is one of Cohen’s most used songs in film and TV, and that’s not counting the cover versions. How many legends can claim ownership of a song used as a soundtrack for a scene featuring a flamethrower as a sexual metaphor?
The line: “I did my best / It wasn’t much.”
The film: Steven Shainberg’s film features the power games of a boss and secretary mixed in with the power dynamic of a dom/sub relationship. It was also the film that introduced the world to Maggie Gylanhaal. James Spader would struggle to find another co-star that he shared such sizzling sexual chemistry with until landing on Boston Public with William Shatner.
The scene: A happy-go-lucky montage of the strange places the relationship goes during its upswing.
The song: “I’m Your Man” is a song with an album’s worth of repressed sexual energy in just a few minutes.
The line: “Or I’d crawl to you baby / And I’d fall at your feet.”
Natural Born Killers (1994)
The film: The defining film of Oliver Stone’s psychobilly acid freakout ’90s period, Natural Born Killers features Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis as a post-modern Bonnie and Clyde in a media-obsessed world.
The scene: A murder in a diner full of rednecks that looks like a music video from hell, complete with color/black-and-white flips, broad performances, and awkward camera angles right out of the 1960s Batman TV show.
The song: “The Future” is one of many Cohen songs used in the film. They all draw from his grim baritone days while reflecting Trent Reznor’s first foray into brooding film music.
The line: “I’ve seen the future, brother / It is murder.”