Leonard Cohen - I'm Your Man documents a bunch of oddball musicians (including Nick Cave, Rufus Wainwright and Beth Orton) performing songs by the living legend in a concert at Sidney's Royal Opera House. Cohen is clearly a songwriter's songwriter, and the resulting movie brims with an infectious passion for the man's melodies and sardonic wit. Unfortunately, the performances are interspersed with interview footage that is much less captivating.
There isn't a particularly interesting story behind these musicians getting together, unlike Buena Vista Social Club or Dave Chapelle's Block Party. Instead we just get platitudes to Cohen. The Edge rambles on about religious transcendence, as though he's deliberately pursuing the title of Most Boring Talking Head Imaginable, but even he can't compete with the epic banality of Bono. Far more interesting are the autobiographical passages narrated by Cohen himself, illustrated with old home movies. They recall Bob Dylan's No Direction Home documentary and feel like a missed opportunity.
"CAVE IS COHEN'S NATURAL SUCCESSOR"
Fortunately, the concert footage stands up on its own. Nick Cave lurches through I'm Your Man and Suzanne, every inch Cohen's natural successor. Rufus Wainwright hams up Everybody Knows spectacularly, while Antony Hegarty is nothing short of mesmerising. When the pace flags slightly, Jarvis Cocker picks it up again. He sings I Can't Forget - one of Cohen's weirdest numbers - in his natural Sheffield accent, making the lyrics about "old addresses where you used to live" sound like vintage Pulp (just ignore the mentions of Phoenix). He's out of tune almost throughout, of course, but then as Cohen says of himself, "I could hardly carry a tune".