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A Mysterious Figure Self-Immolates in the Video for Leonard Cohen’s ‘Puppets’

Five years after the death of modern troubadour Leonard Cohen, director Daniel Askill is out with a haunting video for “Puppets,” off Cohen’s 2019 posthumous album, Thanks for the Dance.

Shot in black and white, the video follows a lonely figure kitted out like Cohen — played by actor Bobbi Salvör Menuez — as they fall to their knees in the New York City streets, self-immolating as loose papers litter the cobblestones.

“Cohen has an incredible ability to create a bridge between the sublime and the prosaic — the metaphysical and political,” Askill said in a statement. “In ‘Puppets,’ he does that while addressing dark themes with a poetic insight. This video for ‘Puppets’ has been born out of a wonderful ongoing dialogue with [his son] Adam Cohen. … This film follows the symbolic journey of a single figure through darkness toward a transcendence. In many ways, it is visually pointing to the idea that Leonard often beautifully evokes in different ways — that the darkness and the light of our experience is deeply entangled — and maybe at a fundamental level they are in fact one and the same.”

“Puppets” — which Rolling Stone deemed a Song You Need to Know in 2019 — is an iteration of a poem Cohen published in 2006’s Book of Longing. Predicting Trump’s infamous “no puppet” quote 10 years before, the song mediates on good, evil, and control  (“German puppets burnt the Jews”), war and government (“Puppet presidents command/Puppet troops to burn the land”), and all manner of darkness and light.

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