Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man Review
By Shawn McKenzie 07/30/2006
Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man is about a tribute concert for Leonard Cohen titled “Came So Far for Beauty” that took place at the Sydney Opera House in January of 2005. Director Lian Lunson filmed the concert, which was organized by music producer Hal Willner. It includes behind-the-scenes interviews and live performances from the concert by Nick Cave, Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright (Rufus’s sister), Kate & Anna McGarrigle (Kate is Rufus and Martha’s mother; Anna is their aunt), Beth Orton, Linda Thompson, Teddy Thompson (Linda’s son), Jarvis Cocker, The Handsome Family, Julie Christensen, and Perla Battala. At the end of the movie, Cohen sings his tune “Tower of Song” with U2 backing him up. The performance was in a different location than the concert, and it seemed like it was a bone thrown to the fans that didn’t get to see him perform at the concert in person.
I have to be honest…even though Leonard Cohen has been making music for almost 40 years, I’ve only heard one song of his…“Everybody Knows.” The only reason I heard the song at all was that it was featured as the theme song for rebel Happy Harry’s radio show in one of my favorite movies of all time…1990’s Pump Up the Volume. While I was watching Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man, I realized that I recognized the song “Hallelujah” as well, but I am used to the 1994 Jeff Buckley version.
Cohen’s singing is definitely a matter of taste. I personally don’t like his singing, but I like his songs. The lyrics are haunting and original, but coming from Cohen’s mouth, it comes out as drowsy and boring. Cohen is in a group of legendary singers who aren’t known for their beautiful voices. Bob Dylan and Lou Reed are other two artists that come to mind. Their songs are beautiful…when other artists sing them. The movie shows that people can enjoy the music of Cohen…as long as other people sing them.
I actually liked how some of the artists changed up some of the songs to make them different from the original. Rufus Wainwright’s version of “Everybody Knows” is a more upbeat Latin-flavored ditty, which is vastly different from any of the versions I have heard before (you know…all two of them.) Almost all of the artists did a decent job with their songs.
Fans of Cohen either might like or hate the movie for different reasons. It is essentially a concert film, but we don’t get to see Cohen perform until the very end, which might be frustrating for fans who want to hear more of the man himself. Another thing that might be frustrating is that the movie cuts away in mid song occasionally to explore the life of Cohen. There just isn’t enough footage and interviews to educate the uninitiated about his life, so you don’t end up learning enough about the man and his importance in the history of music. The musicians gushing about the man are also annoying after a while (especially the members of U2…but Bono never fails to show up to gush about the other artists he likes. Witness the fact that he has shown up for the last several years to induct a number of acts into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.)
Since I’m not really a fan, Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man doesn’t appeal to me, and it probably won’t add any new fans to his flock. I’d rather listen to the Pump Up the Volume soundtrack again, which I don’t mind, because “Everybody Knows” is actually performed by Concrete Blonde on it…not by Cohen himself.
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