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Since bursting onto the music scene in 1967, Leonard Cohen has inspired generations with his unique personality and haunting music. Director Lian Lunson documents a series of candid interviews with Cohen, using the musician's artwork, poetry and photographs to reflect upon his colorful past and his creative process. Also featured is live concert and behind-the-scenes footage from the historic "Came So Far For Beauty" Cohen tribute held in Australia in early 2005, with U2, Nick Cave, Rufus Wainwright, Beth Orton, Jarvis Cocker, Antony, Martha Wainwright, Julie Christensen and others.
 

 Leonard Cohen I'm Your Man

So many great men have walked the earth. Women too. But I made a film about one of these men, so I’m going to stick with them for now—the searchers, the vastly complex and eternally wandering spiritual warriors. Musicians, poets, singers, artists, those who have been kind enough to take us with them on their journeys. But first they must venture ahead, through the dark night of the soul, through the bleakness of love, the contemplation of suffering, the search for God, for truth.

On and on they journey through the desert. After a while they return and tell us, the ones waiting in the safety of our own confines, what it’s like out there. They talk of their encounters and how they have suffered and triumphed over temptation. These men are brave, brave warriors. They venture far off into these lands. They find God, they lose Him again, they go hungry, they thirst, but all the while they keep searching. They’ve gone ahead through sacrifice and turmoil to make the way easier for the more weak of heart.

These are the men I’m interested in.

Who has read Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet and not found themselves in a land they’ve never been to before? How did you ever get so far out there? Are you alone? Will you be able to return safely? You fear you are lost forever. But Rilke’s letters, his kind words to the young poet, assuage your fears. There is only one solitude, vast, heavy, difficult to bear….

You return safely and savor the memory of the journey, and come to rely on those kind and tender words again and again. You can pick up the poet’s letters at any time and feel the comfort that only his explanation of loneliness can bring.

Again you could put on a Nick Cave masterpiece and journey into the beautiful, savage, broken, desperate longing for God. Sometimes he would be a vengeful God…dark, foreboding and angry. But sometimes the tenderness of the love story would be enough to make you weep.

Or Willie Nelson, the beautiful Texan cowboy and Indian all rolled into one. A long-haired sage and prophet. A man filled with a great love and respect for the men that farm the American land, and the men who were there before them. He has fought for those men and the fight has been tough. He’s written about it, he’s sung about it, and he’s survived it. A lot of them went down, but Willie’s still standing. All corners of that desert hath that man wandered. And if we listen to his music we feel not only the famine and the fire but the flood.

I found that Willie seemed very similar to Elvis, not that I ever knew Elvis. I wish I had though. When I was growing up in the small country towns of Australia, I always said the first place I would go when I left home would be Graceland. And that’s the first place I went.

I grew up listening to Willie and Elvis because that’s what my mother listened to.

Elvis’s search for the truth led him way out there. Every time Elvis would open his mouth to sing, the longing would break your heart. How could one man long for God that much? That’s what I used to think. Elvis taught me there could never be enough longing for God.

Then came the warrior that was Bono. Just when you think there is no more left in mankind, that you’ve gone too far astray, there he is saying get yourselves up we’ve got to go further. When you say it’s not possible, that you are weak and tired, he challenges and inspires you to go further than you ever thought you could go.

And that brings me to Leonard Cohen. Leonard will journey into the wilderness for years at a time. I think of him as the Zen master of journeymen, and the man who connects them all. As Edge says in the movie, “He’s the man that comes down from the mountain with the tablets of stone.” In the story, Moses came down from the mountain and the people had to cover their eyes when they looked at him, he was so bright from the light that had radiated from God.

The beauty of that story and image is where Leonard has the ability to take us. You spend time with him in a song or a poem and you come away enlightened. You have picked up some of that light in his words, his grace, his humility and beauty. Leonard has truly gone ahead and been so kind, so generous in sharing what he saw there, in his search for truth.

Yes you who must leave everything that you cannot control.
It begins with your family, but soon it comes around to your soul.
Well I’ve been where you’re hanging,
I think I can see how you’re pinned:
When you’re not feeling holy, your loneliness says that you’ve sinned.

— “Sisters of Mercy,” Leonard Cohen

The experience of making this film and bathing in the light and beauty of Leonard Cohen has truly been a blessing and a true journey. The performers, all of whom tiptoed up to those beautiful words and melodies, became beacons of the light that is Leonard Cohen.

So that’s my tale and experience of these men, these “spiritual warriors.” Then of course there are the women who make films about them, but that’s a different story…