Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man

Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright, Nick Cave, and Bono
star in a film directed by Lian Lunson.

Reviewed by Josef Woodard

Here are a few of the many disarming, ennobling aspects of the
fine Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man, one of the better
entries in the dubious “music film” genre: it’s a rare concert film
in which songs are seen and heard en toto; it actually
includes the introduction of the backing musicians; and it’s a film
driven by word-power. Cohen’s profound (and playful) lyrics
veritably jump and slither off the screen, and we’re reminded again
of Cohen’s special place in the pantheon of poet/songwriters.

Australian director Lian Lunson, who previously made a Willie
Nelson documentary, has worked some kind of small, intuitive
miracle here. The film began life innocently enough, as a
documentary on the Hal Willner-produced Leonard Cohen tribute
concerts at the Sydney Opera House in early 2005 (the tribute began
in Brooklyn and continues in Dublin this fall). But once Lunson got
the mystery man himself in the picture, sparks started to fly, and
a unique and tasteful musical portrait is the upshot.

The tribute concert includes stellar performances by the
Wainwrights — Rufus (“Everybody Knows,” “Chelsea Hotel”) and
Martha, and the McGarrigle Sisters. Also in the mix are Nick
Cave — whose seductive low-end gravel suits “Suzanne” well — the
moving singer Antony Hegarty, and Cohen backup singers Julie
Christensen and Perla Batalla singing “Anthem” (“there is a crack
in everything/that’s what lets the light in …”).

U2 also gets in on the act. The Edge and Bono ponder the Man and
play as his backup band in a rare video shoot with the modern-day,
stage-shy Cohen, who drolly intones “Tower of Song.” But Cohen
doesn’t look nearly as happy playing with Bono as when discussing
subjects dear to him, including his early influences (the Bible and
Marvel Comics) and his later Buddhist faith.

In the interview portions, Cohen keeps coming up with
epigrammatic comments which refract off his lyrics. Regarding his
past: “I don’t have regrets, nor occasion for self-congratulation.”
On his painstaking songwriting process: “you go to work every day,
but you’re not going to get it every day.” On escaping the fame
game by moving to a Zen monastery in the early ’90s and becoming
ordained: “the less I was of who I was, the better I

Everybody knows this guy is the real deal, with a deep history,
and he is ripe for a late-career burst of action and


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