This is not to look for meaning or delve into how things from the past might illuminate the present. This is just for being sentimental and about thinking of Edward and Tracy, two characters understood so well that they were alive up on the screen. It's about the music.
"You should never think
what's in your heart
what's in our home
It's all I want
You'll learn to hate me
but still call me baby
just call me by my name
And save you soul
Save your soul
Before you're too far gone
And before nothing can be done..."
"I am an old woman
Named after my mother
My old man is another
child that's grown old
If dreams were thunder
Lightining was desire
This old house would have burnt down
Long time ago
Make me an angel,
that flies from Montgomery
Make me a poster of an old rodeo
Just give me one thing
that I can hold on to
To believe in this living
is just a hard way to go..."
The music of a fucked up and hard and beautiful life of love.Hallelujah!
So I turn to Babich.
" There was a time you let me know
What's really going on below
But now you never show it to me, do you?
And remember when I moved in you
The holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah.
It will be Lang's gestures, it will be her eyes, the turn of her head to speak of the moonlight and its rapture, winding the cord of her microphone to illustrate being tied to the kitchen chair but also looking straight at the audience as she does so, that make it plain that this is a sexual come on, she, of course it was she who did this: "broke your throne," and cutting with her fingers to illustrate, "and cut your hair." Here after all this, is nothing more than the space of the musical phrase and the listener knows, this gets under your skin, that the one addressed is you yourself, a different you, some other you, son of man: "and from your lips, she drew" and here there are disputes between the need to add an article, Wainwright and most men name it determinate -- 'the' Hallelujah.
What is it, what would be, to, as Nietzsche says, praise the demon who speaks thus? What kind of belief do you have to have, what kind of abased, abashedly awful love do you have to have, to still say, as Abraham, Job, David -- "Your faith was strong, but you needed proof" -- Hallelujah? Any one who has felt at all, and what is the reference here? It is to you and to the appeal of the senses, sensuality. "Her beauty in the moonlight."
On the matter of affirmation, Nietzsche reflects that if there is just one thing to which you would say 'Yes,' then you also and inevitably affirm every other thing, because everything is inextricably intertwined, interknotted. Tied, broken, cut -- "and from your lips she drew, what? a groan? of ecstasy? suffering? Hallelujah."
The four "hallelujahs" that follow are small miracles of understatement and perfectly articulated power, one after another.
If the composer's confidence is that he can tell us what he is doing with his chord, the composer/singer brings it home, and brings us back to the present as s/he does so, referring to the song itself, sung as the singer sings it: " Baby, I've been here before/I've seen this room and I've walked the floor," eroticized, consummately so in the Juno performance where kd cocks her head and puts her had on her hip, the classic instantiation of eros, I need you, I don't need you: "I used to live alone before I knew ya" Doing this, exerting distance, one is brought to the extraordinary pathos of Cohen's song: "But I've seen your flag on the marble arch," and this is kd, this pathos she takes home, this point of desolation, abasement, sorrow, wounding reproof: "our love is not a victory march, it's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah." This is all we are given, all we have, this is all there is. This is a deity whose only redemption, whose only blessing for us, whose only grace is emptiness, indigence, frailty.
This is also what Nietzsche named the "becoming human of dissonance," this is what I once named elsewhere in a reflection on eros, love "coolly and mightily wrong," 18 not the redemption of love, not the saving love, the kind that works out in the end, the love that ends well, finding glory and secured joy, but a shattered love, wrong from the start, all the way down, "a cold and broken hallelujah."
Cascade, crescendo, hallelujahs in chorus, ascending again and again.
"Maybe there's a god above." Maybe indeed. But this god is already close enough to the Jewish and close enough to the Christian that Cohen like Nietzsche turns to reflect on what it might mean to be a god at all, and to be implicated in love. 19
Here, and this is the Liberty Valance moment as kd plays it perfectly. all mimesis, given away: "All I've ever learned from love," she confesses, is "how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya." Shaking her head, we know that this is no achievement, that this shows nothing but the abjection, the inadequacy of love: what we are moved to do, and what we ultimately do, anyway. And this is brought all the way to the top, to what it is to love god, to praise god, pleasing/displeasing and the vast distance between what that is and what we commonly take it to be. "It's not a cry you hear at night, it's not someone who's seen the light: it's a cold and broken hallelujah." And it is what lang does with the hallelujahs to follow, punctuated and powerfully sung, and in contrast with the visceral as she crouches into the pain of these hallelujahs, finally unutterably, impossibly sustained, eyes closed, an extraordinary peace out from the center of being, her being, to open and raise her eyes and our thoughts."
It's about less than nothing and more than everything.