Sunday, June 25, 2006

'Take This, Longing'

Day Two of Being Boring's coverage of the Los Angeles Film Fest.

Ever catch one of those 'late nite' 5 minute infomercials for a compilation CD featuring off renditions of the songs which you know and love? Did you ever wonder what those (long) 5 minutes might feel like if they were stretched into a feature length work of cinematic ineptitude? If you are at all masochistically curious to find out, by all means, Lian Lunson's Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man is your film. It is the sort of picture that you feel even obscure cable channels had passed on, even though the sophomoric direction seems akin to that of an E! True Hollywood Story (yet never even gets that far). Apparently Lion's Gate films put up the money before any filming took place. I mean, the idea sounded vaguely interesting.

An evening of Cohen songs performed in Australia with a wet-dream line up of Nick Cave, Jarvis Cocker, Antony, Beth Orton, Anna and Kate McGarrigle, the Handsome Family and the irritating family... oops! I mean the Wainwright family with the filmed interjections by Monsieur Cohen himself! Sounds choice. The resoundingly converse happens to be the case, however, as each song is skinned of its nonchalant majesty, only to be reworked as a shmaltzy tribute ballad. It's that sort of melodramatic approach (well, not to mention some unworldly vocal cords) that allows Antony to steal the show with his humbled rendition of 'If It Be You Will.' The rest, sorry Mr. Cave, either turns these unassuming songs into bawdy cabaret numbers, or, my apologies Mr. Cocker, strained Leonard Cohen impersonations.

But all of that could be beside the point had this been a decent film. I find it rather a stretch to label this work as film. It feels more like some sad TV special with some big plans that an undergrad had the fluke privilege of taping with a borrowed 3-chip Camera. The editing is sickeningly obvious - at one point U2's Edge likens Cohen to religion, cut to the McGarrigles talking about how Cohen would have grown up seeing nuns in habits walking about Canada, cut to Bono talking about the religious undertones in Cohen's work, cut to Orton's performance of 'Sisters of Mercy.' You get the idea. A glittery red curtain is superimposed over much of the footage (because one layer of image is never enough in documentary film) and iMovie sound effects even accompany certain key photographs. All of this, never once separating from the True Hollywood editing style that has become the hallmark of our 21st century Doco production habits.

I am an admirer of Leonard Cohen's music. Not an adamant one, but an admirer regardless. Instead of wasting money and time on this listless work of musical approximation (not to mention rather desperately competitive career building on Miss Lunson's behalf), might I suggest doing what I did, to cleanse my palette, after this atrocity. Put on 'The Best of Leonard Cohen,' and just listen to the source. It's why you're there in the first place needs no real explanation at all.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leonard Cohen's workis enough to carry the day in this film. Sit back and enjoy..instead of being an armchair critic.

12:07 AM  
Blogger beingboring said...

Actually, my friend, my page is devoted to FILM criticism. Not music criticism. I adore Mr. Cohen's music, thought that is not what is being discussed here. The FILM which is being made about the man/his music. And so, you are wrong. His music is not enough to carry the film because, when one rents the DVD, they are not renting a CD of tunes, they are renting a carefully arranged, edited, shot, composed work of cinema. This film is horrifically made and it is the film that I am lambasting. And if you feel that anyone who may disagree with you is an "armchair critic," I suggest you not read any more blogs. By the way, workis is not one word.

4:56 AM  

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