Sure to please both die-hard Leonard Cohen fans and the newly initiated, this film is full of captivating music and offers an intimate portrait of a truly singular artist — poet, songwriter, cultural icon.
Narrated by Cohen himself, the film features performances of Leonard Cohen songs by such luminary artists as U2, Rufus Wainwright, Nick Cave, Jarvis Cocker, Antony, Martha Wainwright, and Beth Orton, among others.
Musician and poet Leonard Cohen died on November 7, 2016, one of many who passed during the great pop-culture pilgrimage to whatever Death has to offer in the next stage. He did not have the mass appeal like David Bowie or Prince but his fans were no less devoted in their appreciation of the man and his work, which earned him recognition from the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the Glenn Gould Prize.
In January 2005, the Sydney Festival hosted a tribute show to singer/songwriter entitled "Came So Far for Beauty" at the Sydney Opera House, featuring an interesting collection of musicians to pay honor. Nick Cave begins the proceedings with "I'm Your Man", a great choice because Cave evokes without seeming to be mimic Cohen's voice, as he sings about a man willing to be whatever the woman he wants desires, and later during "Suzanne".
Director Lian Lunson, an actress who moved behind the camera with the documentary Willie Nelson: Down Home, made some rather odd choices in assembling the film. Interspersed between the tribute performances, sometimes even within a song, is a biography of Cohen told through reflections by the man and other artists. During Cohen's interview sessions, the frame is occasionally filtered with fogged-out sides.
Fellow Canadians Kate & Anna McGarrigle with Kate's daughter Martha Wainwright sound very sweet singing "Winter Lady" and Martha sounds great on her own singing "The Traitor". Kate's son Rufus also appeared on the bill singing "Chelsea Hotel No. 2" and "Everybody Knows". For those that don't know, Cohen talks about moving from Canada to the Chelsea Hotel in New York as well as his spiritual journey.
Months after the benefit, Cohen would sing "The Tower of Song" with U2 at The Slipper Room in New York. Bono spoke of the sensory overload of language that Cohen wrote in his lyrics. Cohen talks about returning to the road, which he would do three years later in 2008 beginning a world tour that ended a 15-year break. While Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man makes for a good introduction to the man and his music, I would recommend one of his own concert performances for those new to him.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man comes on a 25GB Region A Blu-ray disc in a standard blue keepcase. The disc boots up directly to the menu screen without any promotional advertisements. There is a Digital HD code.
The video has been given a 1080p/AVC-MPEG-4 encoded transfer displayed at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The concert performances certainly look better than the interview sessions though neither really wows and neither aspect looks planned for a high-definition presentation. The "Tower of Song" sequence looks the most colorful and the sharpest.
The non-HD sources standout because of their lack of clarity, especially during Cohen's interview sessions. In addition to the fogged-out filter mentioned above, artifacts creep in. Various archival sources have expected marks and specks from wear and tear. The 16mm footage looks especially grainy, as one would expect, but effects have been added to make things look more worn.
The blacks seen on stage look the richest. For no apparent reason, objects look blurry when in slow motion as seen with Rufus. There are moments of posterizaton when Martha sings "Hallelujah" and also when a blue light hits guitar player Chris Benning, who is supporting singer Antony.
The audio is available in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The instruments come through with good separation. There's a solid dynamic range and satisfying bass support. The singers' vocals are all quite clear, but and the audio elements at the concert are balanced well in the mix. On the other hand, Cohen's low baritone voice can be tough to make out when he's speaking. Unfortunately, the music predominantly comes from the fronts with light accompaniment in the surrounds.
Commentary – Director Lian Lunson is okay on her first commentary, but would have better served with a moderator.
A Conversation with Leonard Cohen (1080i, 4 min) – A short deleted clip from the same sessions that offers a little insight into his writing.
Additional Musical Performances (1080i) – Teddy Thompson with "Tonight Will Be Fine" during rehearsal (4 min). Recorded during the concert, The Handsome Family - "Famous Blue Raincoat" (5 min), Pearl Batalla - "Bird on the Wire" (7 min), and Martha Wainwright - "Tower of Song" (3 min). The latter was clearly not included since that was U2's song.
Trailer (1080i, 2 min)
For fans or the curious, Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man offers a decent biography of the man in his words and a good selection of songs played in tribute. The HD specs are underwhelming, but the performances are enough to earn a recommendation.