Here's a prime example of what happens when fascinating subject matter falls prey to inept filmmaking. Lian Lunson's Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man is a frustrating mess, redeemed intermittently by a few solid musical performances and by the towering, erudite presence of Cohen himself.
Much of Lunson's tribute to the legendary songsmith is taken up by a 2005 concert featuring a lineup of international folk and pop artists honoring Cohen's music. I don't claim a close familiarity with Cohen's music, but it doesn't take an aficionado of it to figure out that several of the performances are overwrought, shrill, or just plain boring. Rufus Wainwright's nasally crooning and vamping reduce the wry humor of "Everybody Knows" and "Chelsea Hotel #2" into fey cabaret numbers. Elsewhere, Nick Cave's version of "I'm Your Man" by way of a Vegas lounge act deadens the senses, and Jarvis Cocker's stiffly delivered "Death Of a Ladies' Man" is god-awful. Aside from the default pleasure taken in knowing that you're hearing one of Cohen's songs, this is disposable material. All of it, that is, with the exception of Teddy Thompson's version of "Tonight Will Be Fine," Antony Hegarty's "If It Be Your Will," and Martha Wainwright's "The Traitor": Three performances that achieve the grace and soulful resonance of Cohen's music, so devoid in the rest of Lunson's documentary.
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