Thursday, May 11, 2006

I'm Your Man

That's the name of Lian Lunson's new documentary about the legendary Leonard Cohen, which I saw at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood last night.

When I moved to LA and became friends with an ever-widening circle of musicians, I started hearing tales of Cohen once living as a monk at the Mount Baldy Zen Center. I would look off to Mt. Baldy in the distance and think "Holy fucking shit, he lived up there?"

What an enigmatic dude.

Unfortunately, the movie is too much Cohen tribute concert and not enough Cohen.

Apparently, the director started off simply filming a Cohen tribute in Australia, and then decided to expand that by adding interviews and biographic material on Cohen.

And the result is exactly that: a tribute concert with a minute or two of talk about Cohen himself in between songs. And when I say "songs," I don't mean snippets, or verses, or choruses of songs. I mean the complete song, from beginning to end, of every single performer in the tribute concert.

In her talk afterward, Lunson stressed that she didn't want to make a Behind the Music-type film, because she "hates that."

Well, lady, if you can't figure out how to make a film about Leonard Cohen without sinking into VH1 series formula, then perhaps you ought not to be making the film at all.

And what's more, may I suggest you call the film "He's Our Man," and label it as a concert film, since your film is much more about the musicians and their tributes then it is about Cohen himself.

Case in point: Bono.

Yes, kittens. Bono.

It's getting so you can't screen a documentary in this town without getting fucking Bono to weigh in on the subject matter. I mean, wasn't he in that Bukowski doc, and that Ramones doc, and that blues doc, and that AIDS doc, and that Orbinson doc, and that Guthrie doc, and oh, about a million fucking others?

Planning to video your child's next birthday party? Call Bono. I'm sure he'd be happy to drop by and tell the camera why your little Zachary is a legend, really, and a visionary in the true sense of that word, and a poet with a soul for the ages.

I lost count of how many times the director cut to Bono in I'm Your Man, but let me promise you that even the bleeding heart, artsy, AIDS-curing, Africa-loaning crowd at the Dome was squirming in their seats and thinking "Bono again. What a tool."

It's a shame, really, that existing Cohen concert and interview footage remains unseen by most of his fans. When asked last night why she didn't use any clips of Cohen himself playing his own material, Lunson said that she didn't want to confuse Cohen's versions of his songs with the versions being shown from the tribute concert.

I wanted to throttle her. I'm pretty sure I wasn't alone.

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