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He the 'Man'

July 13, 2006 By:
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Woman behind the "Man": Director Lian Lunson joins her star, Leonard Cohen (left), and Bono at a Sydney concert.
His is a tower of song with music as mortar and poetry as posterboard upon which he posts the heart and soul of a pop generation lost in paradise.

If he builds it, they have sung it. But don't expect Leonard Cohen's compositions to be digested by the Architectural Digest crowd; his is a canon of creativity that towers above the others.

Opening at the Ritz theaters on Friday, July 14, "Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man" is a man for all seasons; at 72, the Jewish gypsy is seasoned with the talent and adulation that comes when one is considered musical muse to so many; one who, at his very verse, inspired charismatic Nick Cave to comment: "Leonard Cohen can actually write."

And be understood. Cohen, unlike another bard with a beat, is a writer whose words are not muffled in the wind.

Sartorially splendid, this son of a clothing manufacturer seems well-suited to the splashy ensembles he still wears today, eschewing casual for the formality of tie and suit.

But then, his music is clothed in a rich regalia like no other; the words are fine silks in a threadbare industry where there can be no rhyme and reason to the flow of a song's words.

In a word, Leonard Cohen is poetry in motion; it is a slow motion, always has been, whether he lent his regal rasp of a voice to his composition of "Hallelujah" or "If It Be Your Will," covered and coveted onscreen by Rufus Wainwright and the mono-monikered Anthony.

There is one word to describe Cohen and his output, and that is classic -- lyrics refined to read with or without music.

That his whole soul is in it is obvious; Cohen's references to the way Judaism called out to him sing of a spiritual need (which took a side road with his 10-year sojourn into Buddhism) that he found early on in the temple.

Off the Beaten Path
The film -- a combine of quick-witted comments by major fans, such as Bono, and concert footage shot in Sydney last year -- is a reminder that Cohen is a wordsmith who has the jones to stand out in a crowd of playlist poseurs. If there is one drawback to this Lian Lunson documentary, it is that it doesn't draw on the musical talents of Cohen enough.

The singer is more bystander, a product of a film singing his praises rather than letting his voice speak through his performance.

"Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man" proves that he very much is "The Man" in a business where boy bands rock and roll, but rarely revel in the word that, as Cohen shows, can twist and shout on its own. 

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