Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man

Opens at Harvard Exit, Fri., July 14. Rated PG-13. 104 minutes.

If you can't think of a crisis in your life that's tied to a Leonard Cohen song, then Canadian director Lian Lunson's velvety, exuberantly hagiographic film of a 2005 Sydney tribute concert to the Prince of Pain may not be the movie for you. If you can, the experience will be weepy bliss. The concert shows off Cohen's unifying influence on an astonishingly diverse range of musicians, from Nick Cave (giving the lounge-lizard treatment to "I'm Your Man") to the Wainwright family (giving a rousing rendition of "Everybody Knows"). Cohen sings "Tower of Song" at the end, flanked by U2, but his life flashes by us, intercut with the musical numbers, in grainy footage and wry commentary by the man himself.

At 71, Cohen looks like any one of my heavy-lidded Jewish uncles, only with better suits. But notwithstanding a touching moment when he gropes for the name of a musical movement ("Punk, that's it!"), he's sharp as a tack and as ready as ever to debunk his own myths: He can't carry a tune. In his years as a monk, "I hated everyone, but acted generously." And how could he be a ladies' man when he spent "10,000 nights alone"? Cohen may be as obsessive a reviser of his own history as he is of his songs and poems, but his way with words is so sublime, so gently precise and musical, you'd be a churl to quibble. And he seems as genuinely humble as he is proud to be lionized in such good musical company.

 
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