"Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man"
3 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Aug. 8, 2006
Movie review by David MalschLeonard Cohen is a troubadour that has been making music professionally for nearly 40 years. Born into a Jewish family in Montreal, Canada, Leonard's father died when he was only 9 years old. His mother encouraged her son to write and at the age of 13 learned to play the guitar to impress a girl. He moved to New York City and lived in the Chelsea Hotel and released his first album in 1968. He was a songwriter first and foremost and his voiced went from a gravel to a whisper. He became a musician's musician with his beautiful songs that were always honest and unforgiving. His words were like the visuals in a Fellini film, there wasn't anyone like him and hasn't been anyone like him since. In his later years he became a Buddhist monk and lived his life as such.
Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man is a concert film documentary that features the amazing life of Cohen and gathers together some of his biggest fans to salute him. In January 2005, Hal Willner produced a show at the Sydney Opera House in Australia called "Came So Far for Beauty" and invited the likes of Nick Cave, Jarvis Cocker, Martha and Rufus Wainwright and bevy of other musicians to play homage to Cohen. Filmmaker Lian Lunson filmed the event and I'm Your Man the film came to life.
The film features the highlights of that show and weave together interviews with those involved and Cohen himself to tell the story of a remarkable poet and writer and the music he created that influenced a generation. Missing from those in attendance, were many others like Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and Kurt Cobain who were very influenced by the work he did. There were other fans like Prince Charles who has raved about him and Mel Gibson who felt the need to produce the film to make sure that it got made.
During the concert footage of the film, Nick Cave sings the title track "I'm Your Man" and also one of Cohen's most famous songs "Suzanne" and Cocker and Beth Orton do a duet of "Death of a Ladies Man." One of Cohen's biggest fans is Rufus Wainwright who is a big part of the show when he does his versions of "Chelsea Hotel, #2," "Everybody Knows" and "Hallelujah." Through the song "Hallelujah" even Shrek was a Cohen fan since that song was featured so predominately in the first animated film. It would also be safe to say that if Jeff Buckley were still alive today, he most certainly would have been the one singing that song - that is a highlight on his Grace album. At the end of the film there is a special performance in a nightclub in New York with Cohen on vocals and U2 being his backup band on a performance of "Tower of Song." It is a wonderful ending to a really special film.
I'm Your Man is a terrific homage to four decades of songs, it is a must see for the true fans of Leonard Cohen. What's also great about the film is its ability to entertain an audience unfamiliar with his work; it is a great introduction to a great man. After seeing the film it makes you want to revisit his old albums like Songs of Leonard Cohen (1968) and I'm Your Man (1988). The Best of Leonard Cohen (1975) is a perfect soundtrack to the film and great first album for new fans.
This isn't a perfect film but it feels perfect at times by the way it celebrates a true artist and his music. It is suprising that it has taken this long for a film to be made about Cohen because he is a fascinating fellow. There are plenty of names to back that up and a catalog of music and words to confirm his legend. I'm Your Man could expose Cohen to a whole new audience and revive a lost career taken from religion. We will always have that voice and his amazing words to fall back on and now with this film, the visuals to match.
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