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New Doc Honors Legendary Music Man

18 Oct, 2006 By: Jessica Wolf

Singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen has been a quiet influence on a number of popular artists. Now, Cohen himself is the subject of a tribute documentary with the Nov. 14 DVD release of Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man from Lionsgate.

Australian director Lian Lunson became interested in Cohen when music producer Hal Willner was putting together a Cohen tribute concert in Sydney in 2003. The concert featured performances from U2, Nick Cave, Rufus Wainwright, Jarvis Cocker, Martha Wainwright, Beth Orton and others, and was subsequently repeated in England and Ireland.

Willner played some Cohen songs for Lunson, who became hooked.

“I just thought if I could get Leonard involved then I could make a film out of the whole tribute concert,” she said. “I had already shot the concert. My hope was that he would talk to me on film. So I sent him a couple of letters, and we really became friends. And our interviews for the film really kind of evolved out of our friendship.”

It helped that Cohen had seen and liked Lunson's film about Willie Nelson, Down Home.

The Cohen project became something totally different though, Lunson said.

“It's not really a straightforward documentary,” she said. “It's really a collage and a love letter to him.”

Lunson provides commentary on the DVD. Other bonus features include an interview with the 72-year-old Cohen as well as never-before-seen musical performances.

Lunson said Cohen was kind of in awe of the project.

“He's actually a very humble man,” she said. “It's hard for him to sit and listen to other people praise him. But he's always really honored and very thrilled when other people cover his work. … I think he was really touched by the both the concert and the film.”

Lunson spent the 1990s producing and directing videos for such artists as INXS, Pearl Jam, Dwight Yoakam, Neil Young and Anita Baker. She said she wants to open up a young, impressionable audience to Cohen's craft.He stays out of the limelight, she said, but Lunson hopes fans of some of the artists in the documentary — such as U2, Nick Cave, Rufus Wainwright — will find their way to Cohen, too.

“That was one of my main goals: [to have] all of these artists who have fan bases, that these fans would learn that this is the person who inspired them,” she said.

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