"Leonard Cohen I'm Your Man" proves that few can maneuver one of Cohen's dusky, lovelorn songs like Cohen himself. Artfully intercutting a wide-ranging interview with the Canadian songwriter and a highly erratic tribute show lensed live at the Sydney Opera House, pic is essential material for fans, but far less effective as a draw for new, younger listeners. Lions Gate plans a 2006 theatrical release, but the real love will be felt in vid.
As long as Cohen is speaking to director Lian Lunson's camera about his life as a Montreal poet, his rise to hipster fame in Gotham and his eventual retreat from recording and touring to a Zen monastery on Mt. Baldy, pic serves as a nice auto-portrait. But cutaways to the Sydney show inconsistently serve Cohen's art, especially with Nick Cave's stilted Vegas-type crooning. Rufus Wainwright and Antony tap into the marrow of such tunes as "If It Be Your Will." Cohen finally appears at the end with "Tower of Song," in good form with U2 at a N.Y. club, but there's little mention of his reasons for a return to recording and poetry writing.
Camera (color/B&W, DV), Geoff Hall (Sydney), Lunson, Brit Marling, John Pirozzi (New York); editor, Mike Cahill; music, Leonard Cohen; music producer, Hal Willner; musical director, Steven Bernstein; sound (Dolby Digital), Graham Wyse, Rob Schreiber, Marc Malouf; second unit camera, Marling (Sydney), Cahill (New York). Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Real to Reel), Sept. 11, 2005. Running time: 105 MIN.