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Leonard Cohen: Iím Your Man

Uneven Tribute to a Troubadour

Tribute concerts, like the albums they almost invariably spawn, can be decidedly mixed bags. For every cover that reveals something rewarding about the song or the singer, thereís always a clunker or two, well-intentioned but hopelessly ill-advised. So perhaps it should come as no surprise that Leonard Cohen: Iím Your Man is similarly flawed.

Director Lian Lunsonís documentary is a meandering mix of concert footage, culled from a 2005 tribute to the Canadian folk singer on his 70th birthday, and interviews with the Man himself. As one might expect, there are winners (Nick Cave, whose dark, Cohen-esque baritone seems just right for ďSuzanneĒ and ďIím Your ManĒ, and Rufus Wainwright, who pulls off a more than credible ďHallelujahĒ) and losers (Beth Orton, with a dull ďSisters of MercyĒ). Cohen himself doesn't take the stage, though Lunson addresses the elephant not in the room by serving up a quickie canned performance of ďTower of SongĒ, with the singer backed capably by U2.

Unfortunately, Iím Your Man suffers from its own uneven pacing -- the music constantly interrupted by Cohenís folksy, sometimes comical anecdotes, and gushing testimonials from the likes of Cave and Bono. As a portrait of Cohenís life, Lunsonís film is woefully incomplete, though the bard descends from his tower to offer plenty of autobiographical insight, whether heís discussing his rise to cult fame or his 1994 retreat to a Zen monastery on Mt. Baldy.

And the music? Itís erratic, to be sure, but most of the performers on hand do Cohenís work justice. Even so, Iím Your Manís various elements donít always co-exist comfortably. An extended interview with Cohen, complemented by concert footage from his 38 years as a touring performer, might have made for a more satisfying tribute. Instead, Lunson relies too heavily on the singerís generous but sometimes fulsome admirers, and pays the price.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars