Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man

In music, one measure of how influential a singer or group is is the number of tribute albums.  With the release of the soundtrack album to Leonard Cohen:  I'm Your Fan, Canadian singer/poet/Buddhist Cohen now has three.  In 1991, I'm Your Fan, a more indie minded tribute (contributors included REM, Nick Cave, and the Pixies) arrived.  In 1995, Tower of Song arrived, with contributions from popular names like U2, Trisha Yearwood, Peter Gabriel, Elton John, Willie Nelson, Sting, and Billy Joel.  I'm Your Man, the latest tribute, is the least involving, and the documentary as a whole is a bit disappointing.  It does provide ample opportunity to listen to Cohen cover songs and to the man himself, but it seems a bit too fawning, and some of the artists will prompt questions of "who?"

Cohen's music is memorable because of his distinctive voice and piercing lyrics.  His voice is low and sounds like gravel.  As the years progress, it has become deeper.  Cohen pores over his lyrics, and according to some of the interviewees, can spend up to a year working on one of his songs.  His songs are melancholy, piercing, and memorable.  The combination of his voice and lyrics is almost ethereal - he sounds like the voice of God.  And he clearly has inspired songwriters - U2's Bono and The Edge fawn over him like teenage girls.  Director Lian Lunson intersperses concert footage of with interviews of Cohen and the attendees, archival footage, and lots of narration by Cohen himself.  Cohen basically provides a brief autobiography, touching upon some of the highlights in his life.

The concert footage comes from the Came So Far For Beauty Concert, which took place in Sydney in January 2005.  The Concert was a tribute to Cohen, and featured Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright, Beth Orton, The Handsome Family, Nick Cave, Pulp's Jarvis Cocker, and some others.  Cohen seems particularly fond of Rufus Wainwright, who performs multiple covers, adding his own special spin to them.  Lunson makes the common mistake of having interviews interrupt the songs, so their full effect is gone.  There also seem to be a larger representation of recent work from Cohen. Although the songs are memorable, it would have been nice to dip a bit deeper into his catalogue.

The largest glaring omission is of Cohen himself.  He gives a great performance of Tower of Song near the end with U2, but that's it.  One song is simply not enough.  Neither are a few songs that serve as background music.  Wouldn't it have been much better to hear more of the man himself singing?  It also would have been great to hear U2's version of Hallelujah from Tower of Song, but alas, that was not to be. But some Cohen is better than none at all.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 44 minutes, Rated PG-13 for some sex-related material

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