Was Leonard Cohen’s Marianne the last artist’s ‘muse’? Let’s hope so | Fiona Sturges

Nick Broomfield’s film underlines the downside of a life spent providing comfort and inspiration for a male artistWhat are the life skills appropriate to an artist’s muse? Hotness is a given; and sexual availability, while not compulsory, has generally been appreciated. The ability to keep a house tidy is a plus, as is being supportive of the artist at all times, even if he – and it is nearly always he – is being an arsehole. It helps, of course, to be mysterious; if one is to be endlessly gazed at, it’s best not to give everything away at once. As for a life, and a career of one’s own, well, history has shown that such things are rarely tolerated.In Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love, out later this week, the filmmaker Nick Broomfield examines the on-off relationship between the late Marianne Ihlen, a Norwegian single mother, and the poet and musician Leonard Cohen, whom she met on the Greek island of Hydra and who died just four months after her in 2016. Ihlen was immortalised in the song So Long, Marianne, and inspired Cohen to write Bird on a Wire. Since Ihlen gets first billing in the title, one might assume that this is her story, a biopic of sorts, but instead it depicts her through the prism of the men in her life. These include the novelist Axel Jensen, who left her not long after their son, Axel Jr, was born; Cohen, the towering genius whom we are told she could never hope to tame; and Broomfield himself, who had a fling with her during a visit to Hydra in his early twenties. Continue reading...

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