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, there’s always a clunker or two, well-intentioned but hopelessly ill-advised.
So perhaps it should come as no surprise that Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man is similarly flawed. Director Lian
Lunson’s 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 “Suzanne” and “I’m Your Man,” and Rufus Wainwright,
who pulls off a more than credible “Hallelujah”) and losers (Beth Orton, with a dull “Sisters of Mercy”).
Cohen himself doesn't take the stage, though Lunson addresses the elephant not in the room by serving up a quickie canned
performance of “Tower of Song,” with the singer backed capably by U2.
Unfortunately, I’m Your Man suffers from its own uneven pacing -- the music constantly interrupted by Cohen’s
folksy, sometimes comical anecdotes, and gushing testimonials from the likes of Cave and Bono. As a portrait of Cohen’s
life, Lunson’s film is woefully incomplete, though the bard descends from his tower to offer plenty of autobiographical
insight, whether he’s discussing his rise to cult fame or his 1994 retreat to a Zen monastery on Mt. Baldy. And the
music? It’s erratic, to be sure, but most of the performers on hand do Cohen’s work justice. Even so, I’m
Your Man’s various elements don’t 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 singer’s generous but sometimes fulsome admirers, and pays the price.