I'm Your Man (says Leonard Cohen)

If somebody told me I’d be watching a movie that involves Rufus-Martha Wainwright, Nick Cave, and U2, I’d flip out. Unquestionably. But! Last week I happily sat through I’m Your Man, a documentary-meets-concert-film, celebrating the work of Leonard Cohen. In 2005, there was a tribute show, with all the aforementioned musicians singing maestro’s songs; the footage of the show is interspersed with interviews and biographical bits. A really well-made film with all sorts of pleasant surprises, which I won’t spoil for you. A few brief details. One, it was fascinating to see the way Cohen’s songs were covered: such respect was given to the lyrics that you could hear most distinctly every single word. That’s very rare for the contemporary pop. Two, Cohen contrasts Montreal’s art scene to NY art scene, massively unfavorable to the latter. In NY, he says, everybody is trying to get ahead, and there’s an unhealthy competition, pressures, etc. While Montreal scene is much more authentic, hence blossoming. Three, turns out that the proverbial Chelsea Hotel No.2 (I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel… giving me head on the unmade bed) is about Janis Joplin. Go Leonard!
While I liked the film, there definitely had been mixed opinions out there: the Village Voice bashed it mercilessly. They’re probably right saying that Bono made an idiot out of himself (as usual) but calling Cohen’s heart-wrenching Tower of Song a graveyard smash? How insensitive! (but funny…). The Times had a more respectful, balanced review.
Cross-posted on Mima’amakim.

4 thoughts on “I'm Your Man (says Leonard Cohen)

  1. I found the Voice’s review very balanced, even if slightly irreverent. (Though I’m not sure why you found “graveyard smash” so disrespectful.) They basically said that most of the covers were a waste of time – no surprise – and that the editing job distracted from Cohen.
    And yeah – leave it to the Times to be safe.

  2. I found the film to be sadly boring, which is why I ended up not covering it. I love Cohen but this film did not do him justice and most of the covers weren’t all that great. I found the song he himself sings at the end to be the best song in the film.

  3. In the concert film from Carnegie Hall 1988, Cohen tells the story of Chelsea Hotel and Janis Joplin. Hysterical in that, as Cohen puts it, he got Janis in bed by pretending to be Kris Kristofferson.

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