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3 reviews, 9 user ratings

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Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man
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by Collin Souter

"A flawless rock-doc that proves itself worthy of its subject"
5 stars

(SCREENED AT THE 2006 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL) Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man depicts a poet at the twilight of his career in an age when a successor seems highly unlikely. As U2’s The Edge points out, “Now is the time to celebrate this man’s work, because there will probably never be another one like him.” He may be right. While it’s easy to point the finger at radio stations and record companies for the poor state of today’s mainstream music, it’s also important to point out that if a Leonard-Cohen-of-today did emerge from the cracks, he would probably be immediately taken down a peg by music geeks and elitists who’d want to get a backlash going as soon as possible. Today’s aspiring artists and musicians just can’t win.

Many people, myself included, got introduced to Leonard Cohen’s music through the 1990 film Pump Up the Volume, where two of his most well-known songs appeared (Everybody Knows and If It Be Your Will). Like most of today’s best artists, he’s still a figure who must be discovered. This concert film/documentary represents a tribute, introduction and celebration of the man’s work. The concert footage consists of a tribute concert that took place in January, 2005 featuring Nick Cave, Rufus Wainwright and Beth Orton (among many, many others).

This could have been a wrong move. After all, if we’re here to look at this man’s legacy, shouldn’t we hear his songs as he recorded them instead of these cover versions? It’s a valid argument, but the performances happen to be wonderful and are filmed in a straightforward, simplistic manner. Rufus Wainwright’s samba-like version of Everybody Knows is fun and original and Nick Cave brings the song I’m Your Man to life with cocksure swagger. Antony’s falsetto voice brings an extra layer of vulnerability and ache to If It Be Your Will. These are artists who were picked not because they were popular, but because it’s clear in their own work that they have been influenced by Cohen’s words and music.

Director Lian Lunson takes advantage of the instrumental bridges in the songs by inserting clips of Cohen explaining what the song means to him. Cohen speaks like a man who has been to hell and back, but is at peace with the journey and is humbled by the accolades. He has a sense of humor about himself and the world he has created within his heart and mind. He describes his book “Beautiful Losers” as “More of a sunstroke than a book.” With regards to his poorly-received “Death of A Ladies Man” album, in which he collaborated with Phil Spector, he wistfully recalls the album enjoying a second life with “One of those musical movements…the punksters.”

The documentary doesn’t take a typical cradle-to-today approach. It flows freely, letting the music dictate the journey. U2’s Bono and The Edge wax poetically about Cohen as a working class songwriter and the closest thing to Moses the music industry has ever had. Cohen also talks freely about his life as a Monk and his fruitless journey to the top of Mount Baldy. The world just doesn’t seem big enough for a guy like Cohen, but you get the feeling he has seen more in one year of his life than most of us see in ten.

It’s fair to say that a movie like Leonard Cohen: I’m your Man will probably be better appreciated if you’re already familiar with even a portion of the man’s work. I, myself, only had a cursory knowledge of his songs, but I appreciate the movie’s ability to enlightening me on where they came from and how they have the potential to reach anyone at any point in their lives, whether it be during a bad break-up, a crisis of faith or a feeling of anger at the state of the world. Not many rock documentaries can explain clearly why a band or artist has relevance. This one does.

The movie closes exactly the way I hoped it would, with Leonard singing one of his most highly-regarded, not to mention catchiest, songs. I won’t ruin it for you, but it’s worth the wait, considering he’s ably backed up by a certain Irish rock quartet. Cohen, now age 71, with his deep, brooding voice sings like a man who seems happy to be loved, happy to be sad and happy to still be in the game. We’re happy for him and when the film’s over, we want to hear more. That’s what makes a great rock movie. It doesn’t happen often, so embrace it now.

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originally posted: 01/22/06 13:41:20
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2006 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Seattle Film Festival For more in the 2006 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

3/27/07 fools♫gold What a perfect title for a Leonard Cohen tribute-documentary. 5 stars
11/20/06 Bree They chose the perfect people to sing the perfect song. If you like Cohen, you'll dig this. 5 stars
11/18/06 Mary Andrews Tower of Song was so filled with emotion it brought tears to my eyes. 5 stars
11/09/06 Nigel Hillyard Simply stunning; makes you proud to be a fan of "Laughing Lenny" 5 stars
9/04/06 larry balliet My wife talked me into going. Fabulous music, performed beautifully. Would see it again. 5 stars
8/12/06 Tema Freed Wonderful introduction to a singer/songwriter I didn't know. 4 stars
7/29/06 Siobhan Beautiful: you don't have to be a LC diehard fan to love it 5 stars
3/31/06 Hugh MacDonald A great film about a poet and a legend with enchanting performances 5 stars
3/30/06 Rick Springfield Uplifting, engaginly filmed and a must see for anybody who listens to music! 5 stars
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  DVD: 14-Nov-2006



Directed by
  Lian Lunson

Written by
  Lian Lunson

  Leonard Cohen
  The Edge
  Rufus Wainwright
  Beth Orton

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