Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Leonard Cohen: Still the man

Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man (2005, Liam Lunson)- half tribute-concert film, half profile of Cohen's life, although neither half works especially well on its own. The profile half is fairly bland as documentaries go- home-movie footage and interviews tricked up with mostly annoying editing affectations- so that leaves the concert stuff to pick up the slack, which sadly it never does. In most films of this nature, a viewer can count on at least one kickass performance, but that never quite happens here, and I think the main reason is because Cohen's musical style and sensibility run so contrary to that of most performers- who are trained to wow the audience and sell the song with emotion- that they seem a little lost when confronted with songs so musically understated and poetic as much of Cohen's work is (can it be a coincidence that "Hallelujah," one of the few Cohen songs that does lend itself well to a more conventional singing style, is the one that always seems to get covered?). Too many of the guest stars contribute dutiful covers of his classics, but a few of the performers do manage to get on Cohen's wavelength when singing while putting their own spin on the song- Nick Cave seems a fairly natural choice for something like this, and I enjoyed Jarvis Cocker's interpretation of "I Can't Forget," although I was hoping that he might turn up the tempo and really get it rockin'. The closest thing the film has to a showstopper is Antony's take on "If It Be Your Will," his haunting tenor suiting the song every bit as well as Cohen's breathy bass. But while it's nice to see Cohen himself take a turn at the mic near the end, it doesn't pack the punch it should since (a) having U2 playing backup is an unnecessary distraction, and (b) he should really be onstage with the others at his tribute concert instead of tooling around on a little club stage. File this one under missed opportunities, although it did get me to break out my Cohen CDs, so it wasn't a total loss. Rating: **.

No comments: