There are flashes of deep emotional resonance . . . But there’s also a huge amount of whiplash, as the wide-reaching documentary attempts to crystallize something as mercurial as this through performers, fans, lovers, haters, naysayers, believers.
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If Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Song is nourishing only to a certain point, there’s plenty of Leonard Cohen scholarship out there.
Gellar and Goldfine manage the tone expertly, inserting little jolts of humor to keep things from getting too reverent.
Does the film explain “Hallelujah?” Of course not – the song stubbornly resists explanation, because it’s so many different things and because there’s a beautiful mystery at its heart. Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song is smart enough to embrace that mystery and that beauty, and to know that there’s far more to Cohen than can be summed up in four, or seven, or even 150 verses.
This is filmmaking which echoes Cohen’s music style – it’s contemplative, searching and stripped back, but it can also be somewhat navel gazing, ponderous and very slow.
Hallelujah is one for the fans, thorough and informative, like a set of cinematic liner notes, largely content to marvel at the majesty of its subject and the vibrant afterlife of his work.