Leonard Cohen – Bird On A Wire (The Machat Company)

Bird On A Wire documents Leonard Cohen’s 1972 tour of Europe and Israel, giving viewers an intimate look at the madness, both on and off-stage, touring artists with a good-sized following experience on the road. You’ll see Cohen’s world as a constant stream of managers, interviewers, groupies, backstage hangers-on, concert promoters and other assorted creatures. If anything, Bird On A Wire is a precursor to Radiohead’s Meeting People Is Easy, which also shows the frustrations and absurdities of life on the road as a touring artist. Cohen’s interpersonal dealings are mildly interesting to watch, but the real draw is the concert footage, with no less than fifteen Cohen classics performed before a live audience. Cohen’s no Iggy Pop, but there’s something captivating about watching him wrestle with the solemn beauty of his songs in front of a live audience. The film is a mixed bag, but definitely worth checking out for Cohen-lovers.

Leonard Cohen: Hallelujah by Tim Footman (Chrome Dreams)

With a span of 75 years (and counting) as a singer, poet, womanizer, drug and alcohol enthusiast, and, perhaps most surprisingly, a Buddhist, Leonard Cohen’s life should make an interesting bio. Tim Footman’s biography touches on all these aspects of Cohen and delves deep into his work, but his book also lacks depth. The main problem with Hallelujah is that it was written without input from Cohen or anyone close to him. Without that perspective, the reader gets accounts of major events in Cohen’s public life, taken from previously published pieces, and a good criticism of his work, but no insight into what he’s really like or any behind-the-scenes stories. The book is also too short to be definitive, with the biography-proper coming in at a slim 166 pages, and augmented by incongruous and poorly chosen appendices including a dissection of the song “Hallelujah” and a comparison between Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan which contains such pearls of non-wisdom as “Dylan and Cohen were both Jewish, and both looked it”. There’s also distracting editorial oversights, like Allen Ginsberg’s famous poem Howl being listed as originating in both 1956 (p.27) and 1955 (p.49), with the latter being incorrect. There’s a great biography of Cohen to be written, but Hallelujah isn’t it.