March 3, 2013

Four in the morning

The Leonard Cohen tour doc Bird on a Wire (Tony Palmer, 1974) is Dont Look Back with the inscrutable, cryptic, humiliating Dylan replaced by a funny, too-sensitive and deeply self-doubting L Cohen. Sincerely. And as a portrait of the times, too, on the road through more than 20 European cities during the early 70s at the point when Cohen’s fame was about to flip over into obscurity again and when rock audiences still looked like they might actually be a political rally. Berlin is still as it was, and The Partisan is set to wall footage. Journalists ask stupid questions, and he responds with brilliance. He also swims, cries, and when things get really bad, he has a shave. If I hadn’t read Sylvie Simmons’ great bio, I’m Your Man, I would never have known that this film exists. Or why the shave is significant.