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Leonard Cohen – I'm Your Man
Reviewed by Dennis Morton

After my third viewing of Leonard Cohen – I’m Your Man, a documentary about Leonard Cohen and his music, I came home and hit the sack. One of the many songs from the film was circling my synapses. When I awakened, I realized I’d been dreaming, vaguely, about the film.

In my dream there was a cartoon. And in the cartoon there was one tune, and a lot of cars. It seemed like an endless line of cars, at least a thousand. And the tune was Cohen’s, A Thousand Kisses Deep. And then I woke up.

I suspect that this is just the beginning of the movie’s influence on me. I suspect I will now track down Cohen’s poetry and his music and that his work will become a fixture in my aesthetic education, an education I always sense is just beginning, though I’ve been on the planet for a good while now.

I think I understand how I failed to pick up on Leonard Cohen many decades ago. I’ve always had a contrary streak, a built in distrust of icons. I think I eschewed becoming familiar with Cohen’s work for the same reason that I failed to read Sylvia Plath, when she first became famous. I observed my peers going gaga over Plath, knew that I did not share their tastes in many matters, and simply dismissed Plath out of hand, without ever reading her. Stupid me. And it was the same with Leonard Cohen. Too many people liked him. Therefore, in my warped calculations, he couldn’t really be that good. I wonder how many more great figures I’ve dismissed for similar reasons.

Well, I’ll be forever grateful to Lian Lunson for this documentary and for introducing me, finally, to Leonard Cohen. He is truly an amazing artist. Lunson’s documentary is built around a tribute tour of wonderful musicians, including Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright, Nick Cave, Linda Thompson, Teddy Thompson, Perla Betalla, Julie Christensen, and Bono, among others.

Much of the film consists of Cohen’s music performed at the “Came So Far For Beauty” concert at The Sydney Opera House in Australia. Interspersing the music is the Cohen biography, told in old photos, Cohen’s drawings, recordings of poetry readings, and monologues by Cohen, in response to questions from Director Lunson as she visited Cohen at his Los Angeles home over a period of a year or so.

Humility and wit are not usual bedfellows, but Cohen effortlessly marries the two. Listening to him read his introduction to the Chinese translation of Beautiful Losers, is, as they say, worth the price of admission. And his description of a long friendship with Zen Master Roshi is both funny and wise.

I wish I could tell you that Leonard Cohen – I’m Your Man will enjoy a long run. But it won’t. In fact, if you don’t catch it this week, you’ll probably have to wait for it to come out on video. My gratitude goes out to The Nickelodeon Theatre for bringing this infectious film to Santa Cruz. If you like good poetry and terrific music, I urge you not to miss it.

For KUSP’s Film Gang, this is Dennis Morton.