Lionsgate // 2005 // 103 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // December 14th, 2006
Poetry is just the evidence of life.
If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.
-- Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen I'm Your Man is a musical hagiography where high profile underground musicians offer reverent homage to a singer-songwriter blessed with the "cool" label largely due to his status as undiscovered by the unwashed masses. Featured in the movie are colorful characters such as Rufus Wainwright, Nick Cave, Jarvis Cocker, Martha Wainwright, the Handsome Family, Perla Baralla, Teddy Thompson, and Beth Orton caught live at the Sydney Opera House during a concert staged in January of 2005. Spliced in with the performances are talking head segments with Bono and the Edge of U2 waxing poetic about Cohen, and there are bits from the man himself interjecting his own thoughts on his favorite topic. The film mixes performance, reflection, and adulation to create a collage tribute that should please fans as well as initiate those that couldn't name one song by Leonard Cohen. And of course, before it's all over you're going to get to hear Cohen team up with U2 for "Tower of Song."
This kind of film works against itself with the collage approach, and simultaneously it is the saving grace. When I saw Nick Cave launch into a favorite Cohen song of mine, he was soon interrupted by the Edge's thoughts on the composer. The good thing is the pace is very quick, so if you find Rufus Wainwright's nasal tone not to your liking, he goes by quickly. It's all clips and highlights without a full performance to either sate our desire or grate our nerves. I can do without the musicians talking about their hero, but the parts where Leonard himself speaks are priceless for their wit and wisdom. All in all, Leonard Cohen I'm Your Man is a mixed bag with as much to admire as there is to frustrate. Somehow it all works in the end, but it may be a rough road to reach any concrete destination. Oddly enough, I have just described the man's musical catalog as well as the DVD.
The transfer is a clear anamorphic widescreen treatment with appropriate warmth for the stage footage. It may seem soft in spots, but that may be more mood than anything else. You get a choice of a nicely managed surround or stereo sound option, and the music comes off across clear and well balanced around the room. Extras include four uninterrupted additional musical numbers, though the last is in a rehearsal studio and not from the live concert. Additional interview of footage of Cohen is featured as well. A director's commentary by Aussie filmmaker Lian Lunson provides a nice account of the conception of the film. She's a first time commentator, and acquits herself nicely. Across the board, everything feels warm and cozy.
Equal parts documentary and performance, Leonard Cohen I'm Your Man comes alive the most when Cohen himself talks to the camera or performs. For all the wonderful performances by the talent in the program, each and every one is dusted once Leonard gets behind a microphone. His sense of drama and poetry is what defines him as an artist, and you yearn for a chance to see him deliver all of these songs. The whole affair feels a bit like a funeral, but at the climax the body climbs out of the casket to prove he is far more alive than anyone in the room. The folked-out pop stars should run and hide, and pray they one day learn to write songs as complex and strange. And yes, that goes for you too, Bono...
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 103 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Four Additional Music Performances
* Conversation with Leonard Cohen
* Commentary by Director Lian Lunson