November 16, 2010

AND WE'VE GOT 14 BOX INVITES BURNING A HOLE IN OUR POCKETS:

Bird on a Wire: This 'lost' 1972 Leonard Cohen documentary is as moving as the man's music. (Bernadette McNulty, 16 Nov 2010, The Telegraph)

[Tony] Palmer recounted the unbelievable tale of how the film was 'lost' for 38 years. After being invited to follow Cohen in 1972 on what was then billed as one of his last ever tours, Palmer filmed the Canadian singer songwriter – or poet as he preferred to be called – on the road across Europe, ending up at a final gig in Jerusalem. However, Cohen objected to the documentary's final cut and after re-editing it himself, it received one showing before disappearing without trace. [...]

The behind-the-scenes Leonard snooping is both fascinating and hilarious- whether it's Cohen swimming naked in a hotel pool, patiently answering the mindless questions of journalists, being propositioned by saucer-eyed groupies, arguing with promoters over rubbish speakers, or imploding with anxiety and fleeing the stage on the final night of his tour.

It is also a compelling document of Europe in the early Seventies, of life on the road for ordinary musicians, passing through grey airports and stopping at the side of the road for sandwiches while an atmosphere of war and hostility played out in the news pages.

But more than that the film is a visual match for Cohen's music itself. There is achingly beautiful footage of Cohen singing at the peak of his powers, lit and framed so as to look like a renaissance painting. Palmer is unafraid to linger on the performances as much as the backstage shenanigans because as Cohen himself says, the songs for him are like meditations – he has to really inhabit them in order to be able to sing them. The camera freezes on Cohen's tear-stained eyes as he breaks down in front of the Jerusalem audience and it feels almost painfully intimate.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at November 16, 2010 3:05 PM
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