Coming to NYC’s Film Forum tomorrow, Wednesday, January 18:
LEONARD COHEN: BIRD ON A WIRE
London’s Rainbow Theatre (1974), Krakow’s Leonard Cohen Festival (2010)
Toronto Jewish Film Festival, Copenhagen Jewish Film Festival, In-Edit, Midnight Sun
Life on tour with Leonard Cohen in 1972.
In the Spring of 1972, Palmer followed Leonard Cohen on his European (and Israeli) tour, capturing several performances often marred by poor sound equipment, backstage moments, press junkets, and interactions with fans. Cohen’s dissatisfaction with the concert film resulted in a re-edit and delay of its premiere until 1974, after which it more or less vanished aside from bootleg VHS copies. Thought lost, original footage was discovered in 2009 by the son of Cohen’s manager, prompting Palmer to reconstruct a version closer to his original intention. This new/old version debuted in 2010 but was not released theatrically in the US until now, in recognition of the performer’s death this past November. While offering a look at the young Cohen performing some of his best loved songs, the film is more of a candid chronicle of the singer’s life on tour and, especially, how he dealt with mishaps, than it is a standard concert doc, thankfully. Palmer is present for the performer’s insistent attempts to woo an attractive groupie, while also witnessing a gaggle of annoying, entitled fans demanding refunds after a technically-plagued gig, and, in its emotional climax, Cohen quitting the stage in Jerusalem when he’s not feeling the music, only to finally make a poignant return after much backstage discussion.