Tuesday, November 21, 2006


He's Your Man
Ah, the moon's too bright
The chain's too tight
The beast won't go to sleep
I've been running through these promises to you
That I made and I could not keep
Ah but a man never got a woman back
Not by begging on his knees
Or I'd crawl to you baby
And I'd fall at your feet
And I'd howl at your beauty
Like a dog in heat
And I'd claw at your heart
And I'd tear at your sheet
I'd say please, please
I'm your man

I am so glad that they didn't wait until Leonard Cohen was dead before they made Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man, the loving tribute to the great Canadian poet, novelist, musician, and icon. Too often tributes to the deserving are not voiced until that person is gone.

This documentary, which we watched over the weekend, was considerably more compelling that I expected it to be. The tribute concert was filmed at the Sydney Opera House in 2005, and featured performances by Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Rufus and Martha Wainwright, Nick Cave, Jarvis Cocker, Beth Orton, Antony (Antony and the Johnsons), Bono, the Edge, Teddy Thompson, the Handsome Family and some hippie chicks whose names I have forgotten.
Kees, you in particular, would have loved Nick Cave's pseudo lounge-lizard act. It was pretty splendid.
Conversations with Nick Cave, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Rufus and Martha Wainwright, Bono, etc, provided charming and, at times, quite touching personal glimpses into the influence that Cohen has had upon these musicians. The concert footage and celebrity bits were interspersed with conversations with Leonard Cohen himself, conversations which revealed such tidbits of information such as who Suzanne really was and how Cohen came to be an ordaned Zen monk.
Leonard Cohen, recipient of the Order of Canada, has really come into his own in his seventies. He is as articulate and as precise and measured in his speech as though he were speaking in poetry.
And physically, he is one of those rare and fortunate people who actually look better as they age. Cohen still has style and charisma and is still a snappy dresser. I think he has never looked better.

Critics of the film may say that the concert footage was a little top-heavy on songs performed by Rufus Wainwright, but really that's only suitable. Because honestly now, is there a bigger Cohen-whore in all the world than Rufus Wainwright? And it is undeniable that nobody sings Leonard Cohen quite like Rufus Wainwright does. He
has done many wonderful Cohen covers, including, in my humble opinion, the best version of Hallelujah. And even if Leonard Cohen does now profess to regretting that he once publicly admitted it was written about Janis Joplin, for my money, I'll take Rufus Wainwright singing Chelsea Hotel.

28 comments:

mellowlee said...

OMG! I have to see that! When was it released? I agree 100% I think it's wonderful they did the tribute while he is still living and can appreciate it. I think we should all do that on a smaller scale for the ones we love. One idea I read about on Sark's website was how she got all of her mothers best friends to write a special memory they had of her,and add any photos or such and she made her mom a beautiful memory/tribute album for her birthday. Can you image how wonderful that would be? :)
I will look for this at my local video store...or maybe the have it on PPV! He is aging beautifully!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Mel - It's been in our video store for a couple of weeks and it really is very good. There are some great performances.

What a wonderful idea that tribute album is! That is one good daughter, I tell you.

phlegmfatale said...

I LOVE Beth Orton, love Nick Cave, love Rufus. However, for me, the defnitive Hallelujah was Jeff Buckley. Yes, Leonard only looks more distinguished and handsome as he gets older. Quite dishy, actually.

mellowlee said...

I will look for it this weekend! Thanks :)

Re: Sark
http://www.planetsark.com/index.htm
My mom gave me one of her books for my birthday one year. It was called Succulent Wild Woman. It was great!

Allison said...

Look you went all myspace with your picture!! ;P
I like it!

I've heard mixed reviews of this film, but still really want to see it, so if it gets your stamp, I'm game. I love when tribute movies are made while the person is still living.

I don't think I've ever heard Rufus' version of "Hallelujah"...I'll have to do some searching.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Strangely, nobody performed Hallelujah in the film. PF. And I know a lot of people agree with you about Jeff Buckley's version (he's my second choice).

Thanks, Mel, I need to check out that site! It sounds like a lovely idea.

hahaha Allison! I guess I had that coming, didn't I? And that, my friend, is as close to myspace as I'm going to get.
It certainly isn't a perfect film by any means, but I thought it was important and quite lovely.
Don't tell anyone, but I have the Rufus version from the Shrek soundtrack. I'm so indie. I will post it on Bolt tomorrow.

michelle said...

Leonard Cohen is one of those individuals who make me wonder damn... how in the fuck does one have so much talent & not BURST. The way he's blended his depression into his art is so classical.

I bet the show was phenomenal, I ooze jealousy. ps... we listened to your cd the other night whilst knitting... you put Rage on there... dude.

She's Crafty said...

My favorite memory of university was the day that my Canadian Lit class discussed Leonard Cohen. The only memory worth remembering really.
Did you see the National coverage of Suzanne? It was interesting and kinda sad.

kees said...

Oh wow. Ok, they don't have it at my video store - I just checked. I can buy it online but it might not work on my DVD player. I'll just have to go knocking on doors til I find someone with a player that will accept region 1 DVDs. A small price to pay.

'I'm your man' is great but possibly 'Iodine' is my favouite. Leonard rules. And what a fantastic line-up of people. I have to watch this.

I'm not going to get all Nick Cave on this Leonard Cohen post but have you seen the 'Stagger Lee' video? He's a bit lounge-lizardy in that which is brilliant, it being the most violent and offensive song ever sung and all that.

Karen said...

Never been a fan of Cohen. I'll admit he's a great songwriter but I just can't get into the music.

Ben said...

They missed Jennifer Warnes in the documentary ?

She's done the best Cohen covers IMO on her "Famous Blue Raincoat" album which has been sadly ignored over the years.

I'd like to see the tribute, and you're right, he deserves it.

Anonymous said...

Hello all Mrs. Ritchie here! Probably the world's BIGGEST Leonard Cohen fan! I did my tenth grade english theme on him and everyone thought I was the biggest loser! Classless, unworldly, dorks that they were...

Anyway, Barb you've won me over (again!) with today's blog! I MUST see that film! I have all his books including his biography, Various Positions. I even went so far as to replicate the famous Cohen photo of him standing on a plank on the island of Hydra in Greece. I was there in '96 and had a friend take a photo of me in the same spot! (I know, I'm such a freak! LOL) And Barb, I don't know if you remember Mark, the guy I introduced you to at my wedding who is a musician, but he dated Leonard Cohen's daughter! He was actually at the man's house in Montreal! Personally, I think that's the coolest thing ever!

I am so hitting my vid store this weekend!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Michelle - who doesn't automatically think of Rage Against the Machine when they are knitting. It's only natural!
Cohen certainly is a freak of nature, all right. I wish I could channel my shit like that.

Your Can Lit class would have had a lot to discuss that day, Serah. The man has such a huge catalogue.
I didn't see the thing about Suzanne on the National. I should look that up.

Are all dvd players not the same there, Kees? Does it have to do with the differences in amperages between Europe and NA? Anyway I hope you can find someone with a dvd player that works.
I have not seen that Nick Cave video, but I mentioned it to Eva and she nodded her head knowingly. He's a wild man, that Nick Cave!

Karen, I freely admit that almost anybody sings Cohen better than Cohen does. But he truly is a poet.

Ben, I was surprised that Jennifer Warnes was not involved, as well. I remember her tribute album well and it was pretty grand.

Mrs Ritchie, I thought of you when I was watching this film, knowing that you could go into a death match fight against Rufus Wainwright for biggest Cohen fan title.
I do remember you telling me about Mark dating Leonard Cohen's daughter, who btw is a BFF of Rufus. Such a small country. You'd love this film.

John Mutford said...

I'm with phlegmfatale, Jeff Buckley's version is my favourite. I also really like kd lang's Juno version. Her album version was good, but didn't quite capture the live one. Wainwright's and John Cale's version are both good. Have you heard Bono's? Yikes. Credit for trying something new I guess, but that's as far as it goes...

Will said...

Oh I love Rufus singing. I would say the film did not have enough Leonard singing. It's a little strange - I really like most of the performances; and Leonard is so amazing as an interview subject - but something about how the two were put together left me wanting more. Nevertheless, it gave me greater insight into someone I did not know much about.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

John, I can't quite get behind kd lang's version. It's lovely, but lacks something. It's too smooth, I find.
I thank my lucky stars that I have not heard Bono's version.

Wow, Will, I've never heard anybody say that they wanted more Leonard singing before! But I agree the film was far from perfect. I was never able to say what it lacked, but perhaps more interaction between Leonard and the others (other than Bono and the Edge, that is).

Beth said...

I need to see this doc. I think Rufus is the perfect voice for Cohen's songs, too ... but my favorite "Hallelujah" is by Jeff Buckley.

hilary m. said...

Good review Barbara!
I agree with you, I really liked this movie. I think the idea of having a bunch of talented artists perform Leonard Cohen songs is very smart. Interesting people + interesting lyrics = interesting performances. Don't worry Barbara, I have Rufus' Hallelujah off the Shrek soundtrack too. Even worse, it was the first CD that I could call my own... It's a tie between Rufus and Jeff for best Hallelujuah. My mum loves k.d.'s version, but it doesn't do a lot for me.

justacoolcat said...

This sounds great. I'll have to check it out.

John Mutford said...

Barbara, I agree lang's album version is a little too smooth. The live version from the junos was a little rougher, a little less polished and I think that's part of why it was so great.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Hi Beth, welcome! Rufus is a perfect Cohen vehicle, isn't he? Looks like Buckley is winning the battle of the Hallelujah singers thus far, so you are in good company.

If a cool kid like you also owns the Shrek soundtrack, then I feel somewhat vindicated, Hilary. You could have picked much much worse cds for your first solely-ownded too.

JACC, if you like Leonard Cohen at all, or any of the featured performers, it's well worth watching.

John, that song definitely needs a degree of roughness. I'll need to check out the Juno version.

kees said...

Nope, nothing to do with funny electrics, just plain old fashioned hatefulness to make us pay extortionate prices for our DVDs. You can hack into some and force them to play region 1 but I don't know if you can do that with ours.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

How annoying for you Kees! I wish you well on your search.

Evashoonik said...

I still don't understand why Jarv wasn't allowed to speak.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I know, Evooshnik! And I understand that Jarv can be quite tasteful when he chooses to be.

mellowlee said...

I was so excited to find this after work today in my local video store! I couldn't even wait til the weekend to rent it, because I was afraid it would be gone then. I am not going to watch it tonight, cause im too sleepy, but tomorow for sure as it has to be back friday at 8pm. EEEeeeeeee!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I hope you like it, Mel! That's dedication, taking away your Thursday night for Leonard!

mellowlee said...

*G* well, I will have to watch Grey's Anatomy first of course :)