Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man

"Weak"

Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man Review


Here's a prime example of what happens when fascinating subject matter falls prey to inept filmmaking. Lian Lunson's Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man is a frustrating mess, redeemed intermittently by a few solid musical performances and by the towering, erudite presence of Cohen himself.

Much of Lunson's tribute to the legendary songsmith is taken up by a 2005 concert featuring a lineup of international folk and pop artists honoring Cohen's music. I don't claim a close familiarity with Cohen's music, but it doesn't take an aficionado of it to figure out that several of the performances are overwrought, shrill, or just plain boring. Rufus Wainwright's nasally crooning and vamping reduce the wry humor of "Everybody Knows" and "Chelsea Hotel #2" into fey cabaret numbers. Elsewhere, Nick Cave's version of "I'm Your Man" by way of a Vegas lounge act deadens the senses, and Jarvis Cocker's stiffly delivered "Death Of a Ladies' Man" is god-awful. Aside from the default pleasure taken in knowing that you're hearing one of Cohen's songs, this is disposable material. All of it, that is, with the exception of Teddy Thompson's version of "Tonight Will Be Fine," ANTONY HEGARTY's "If It Be Your Will," and Martha Wainwright's "The Traitor": Three performances that achieve the grace and soulful resonance of Cohen's music, so devoid in the rest of Lunson's documentary.

Cohen's lyrics have a stealthy, haunting eloquence carried along by the storm clouds of his signature, brooding voice. But concert producer, Hal Willner, bleeds all the darkness and enigma out of Cohen's work and buffs it up with a backing orchestra and an overproduced slickness worthy of a VH1 special. Lunson's filming of the concert too is rife with irony because the documentary-maker, according to the press notes, wanted to avoid making a "Leonard Cohen: Behind the Music." Yet this is precisely the effect of watching her conventionally shot, softly lit concert footage.

Lunson intersperses the concert numbers with testimonials from its performers, each reflecting on what Cohen's music has meant to him or her. And sticking out like superstar-sore thumbs from this repertoire of indie acts are Bono and The Edge, spilling one platitude after another about the religiosity and sensuality in Cohen's lyrics, etc. If it weren't for Lunson's interviews with Cohen himself, in which he expounds on the themes in his music, the milestones in his career, and his roots in the Beat-era Montreal poetry scene, this film might've been dismissed as a monotonous panegyric.

True, Cohen's work deserves great praise, but Lunson ignores, forgets, or is artistically incapable of understanding that, even in a tribute movie, a critical perspective is needed by which we, as viewers, can gain a personal vantage on the subject. At a loss for incisive content, she resorts to sweetening her footage with jejune optical and sound effects: Overlays of flickering red circles, unnerving echoes and hisses, digitally sped up/slowed down images, images and sounds in reverse, all of which are meant to convey a dreamlike effect, but instead feel tiresome and amateurish. Indeed, if I didn't know any better, I'm Your Man would seem like the product of an undergraduate film student who had access to way too many bells and whistles, but no personal voice.

Never in I'm Your Man does a rounded representation of Cohen, the life-weary artist and spiritual seeker, come into relief. We get some interesting autobiographical reflections from Cohen himself and a moment wherein he reads aloud from a preface to one of his novels that's a pure pleasure to experience. But these stand outside Lunson's filmmaking, which sorely lacks a point of view, a sense of searching beneath what are merely facts and rosy impressions to become an intelligent inquiry into Cohen's creative spirit.

Can I be the an?



Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man

Facts and Figures

Run time: 105 mins

In Theaters: Friday 8th September 2006

Box Office USA: $0.8M

Distributed by: Lionsgate

Production compaines: Horse Pictures, Lionsgate, Sundance Channel, Con Artists Productions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 69%
Fresh: 52 Rotten: 23

IMDB: 6.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Lian Lunson

Producer: , Lian Lunson,

Starring: as Himself, as Herself, as Himself, as Herself, as Himself, as Himself, as Himself, as Himself

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

The latest adaptation of Agatha Christie's 83-year-old classic whodunit, this lavish, star-studded film is old-style...

Paddington 2 Movie Review

Paddington 2 Movie Review

The first Paddington movie in 2014 is already such a beloved classic that it's hard...

A Bad Moms Christmas Movie Review

A Bad Moms Christmas Movie Review

Everyone's back from last year's undemanding adult comedy, plus some starry new cast members, for...

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Movie Review

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Movie Review

Filmmaker S. Craig Zahler brought a blast of offbeat creativity to the Western genre two...

The Death of Stalin Movie Review

The Death of Stalin Movie Review

Fans of the film In the Loop and the TV series Veep will definitely not...

Call Me By Your Name Movie Review

Call Me By Your Name Movie Review

Set in northern Italy in the summer of 1983, this internationally flavoured drama is a...

Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review

Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review

The most riotously enjoyable Marvel movie yet, this action epic benefits hugely from the decision...

Advertisement
Breathe Movie Review

Breathe Movie Review

While this biopic has the standard sumptuous production values of a British period drama, it's...

The Snowman Movie Review

The Snowman Movie Review

With a cast and crew packed with A-list talent, this film seems like it should...

The Party Movie Review

The Party Movie Review

Comedies don't get much darker than this pitch-black British movie, written and directed by Sally...

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) is on his way to becoming the new Woody Allen, which...

6 Below Movie Review

6 Below Movie Review

Based on an astonishing true survival story, this film is subtitled "Miracle on the Mountain",...

Mother Movie Review

Mother Movie Review

Darren Aronofsky doesn't make fluffy movies, and has only had one genuine misfire (2014's Noah)....

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

It's been 35 years since Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic, which was set in 2019....

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.