Bird On A Wire on BBC Four: Friday, 19th November 2010

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John Etherington
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Re: Bird On A Wire on BBC Four: Friday, 19th November 2010

Post by John Etherington » Sat Nov 20, 2010 1:05 pm

Here are the links for "Bird on a Wire" and "Songs From the Road" on BBC i-player (available for the next week or so, in the UK only): http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/search?q=b ... 20a%20wire
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Re: Bird On A Wire on BBC Four: Friday, 19th November 2010

Post by wakeupmartin » Sat Nov 20, 2010 1:34 pm

What an amazing film!!! Thanks for letting me know about it.
They gave a 'strong language' warning at the start, but no mention of the fact that I was going to be shown footage of people burning alive and other horrors. That's an observation more than a complaint btw. The violent footage was pretty strong stuff, and not what I was expecting, but I am glad I saw it (though not in a sadistic way... more simply because I need reminding from time to time how profoundly lucky I am).

I'm going to get lynched for saying this, but at 1hr:6m:30s for a moment Leonard really looks like Noel Gallagher: Just after he says "Manchester...may well be a ruin...it's well on it's way".

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Re: Bird On A Wire on BBC Four: Friday, 19th November 2010

Post by Unspoken Words » Sat Nov 20, 2010 2:48 pm

A truely great historical record and very very interesting but I am still horrified by the violent sequence of a man being shot and another person burning even if I can see the link with the song and LC's intro to the song, it was nevertheless shocking and made my whole body react in horror. It certainly had an effect and illustrates mans inhumanity to man and the results of the sins of the Father to the son but I think this was gross and unnecessary.
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Re: Bird On A Wire on BBC Four: Friday, 19th November 2010

Post by phillip » Sat Nov 20, 2010 3:41 pm

I have this film non VHS not very good quality then I got the DVD and was great to see it on TV too and a very interesting and historical film of the 1972 tour I was 1 year old back then LOL but really enjoyed it of course:)

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I have been a Leonard Cohen fan for 28 years feel free to email me if you wish to keep in touch!
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Re: Bird On A Wire on BBC Four: Friday, 19th November 2010

Post by bridger15 » Sat Nov 20, 2010 5:03 pm

http://www.theartsdesk.com/index.php?op ... &Itemid=27
Saturday, 20 November 2010 01:12

Bird on a Wire, BBC Four
Written by Graeme Thomson

Image
Leonard Cohen in 1972: A generation's favourite tortured artist

The renaissance enjoyed by Leonard Cohen over the past few years is not only thoroughly welcome and entirely justified, but also partly a testament to the strange and powerful alchemy that sometimes occurs when the defiantly high-brow is swallowed whole by popular culture. The adoption of Cohen’s 1984 song “Hallelujah” by everyone from Jeff Buckley and Shrek to a parade of desperate X Factorettes made it an “Angels” for the noughties; the only point, I'd be willing to wager, where Cohen and Robbie Williams will ever find communion. More prosaically, the decision – forced upon him by the alleged misappropriation of over $5m from his pension fund by a former manager – to begin touring again in 2008 after an absence of 15 years has written a hugely successful and ongoing third act for his career, rebranding Cohen at 76 as a benevolent, trilby-doffing roué, an old-school charmer in the garb of a Mafia capo .

'This was a film about the about here and now, about an artist striving to maintain a point of stillness in a sea of constant commotion'

Shown on BBC Four last night in a restored version of the original cut, Tony Palmer’s superb documentary Bird on a Wire took us back half a lifetime and portrayed an altogether more conflicted soul. It was filmed during Cohen’s 20-city tour of Europe in the spring of 1972 and described itself at the start as an “impression” of that tour. And that's precisely what it was – impressionistic, poetic, enigmatic, perfectly in tune with its subject. There was no attempt to contextualise Cohen in terms of his past achievements or his life outside of the bubble of the tour. This was a film about an artist striving to maintain a point of stillness – “I prefer not to speak at all” – in a sea of almost constant clamour and commotion.

It was one of the best attempts I've seen to examine the extraordinary conditions under which a performing artist has to work, trying to inhabit moments of heightened awareness and retain an accessible sense of self amid ceaseless interruptions and demands for explanations. Aged 37 in 1972, as well as a generation's favourite tortured artist, Cohen was already a successfully published poet and novelist who had learned that “success is survival”.

On stage, he and his band were plagued by rogue monitors and ghost-riddled sound systems. He simmered with all the frustration of a poet whose words couldn't be heard. At one point he stood in the foyer of an Oslo theatre and gave two stern fans – peeved beyond parody with righteous fury – their money back from his own pocket, art forced to bow to commerce.

Backstage it was a whole other world. Palmer’s film recalled Don’t Look Back, D.A. Pennebaker’s celebrated documentary of Bob Dylan’s 1965 British tour, in its fascination with the ecology of the after-show environment. His camera penetrated the outer crust of hangers-on, journalists and facilitators that seemed to squeeze all the air from Cohen’s lungs as he crouched in his dressing room, a shower of devotees surging at the door. The quiet, bearded fans clutching books of verse were more viciously demanding than any teeny-bopper screaming at a piece of pop fluff.

These intrusions were spontaneous and genuinely invasive. Palmer's camera, of course, was invited. This was a knowing self-portrait which left Cohen’s enigma preserved and indeed enhanced. It captured a man profoundly aware of his own charm and mystique.

'We also saw the nightly complications of the lethal lothario, only a little put off by the presence of a camera and the language barrier'

When we saw him reading poetry as curlicue of smoke drifted through his hotel suite, a bottle of champagne lounging in the foreground, the scene couldn't have been better choreographed had it been a Vanity Fair photo shoot.

We also saw the nightly complications of the lethal lothario. At one point Cohen, only a little put off by the presence of a camera and the language barrier, worked his legendary charm on an almost indecently willing victim. Later, in one of the film’s most uncomfortable scenes, a recent conquest approached him backstage and asked, “Do you remember me?” He squirmed his way out of making an appointment, muttering “I feel like I’m going to disgrace myself”.

The music wasn’t quite centre stage but instead wove around the images and the drama. There were fabulous renditions of what he dismissively described as “museum songs” like “Suzanne” and “Sisters of Mercy”, as well as a magnetic, thoroughly self-disgusted version of “Chelsea Hotel”. Throughout, for minutes at a time, Palmer’s camera sat tight on Cohen's face, finding in it all the action required.

His voice too, whether singing or reciting poetry, was mesmerising. He characterised his music as a mixture of chanson and synagogue cantor, and himself as “a broken-down nightingale” trying to “move a song from lip to lip”. There was a lot of this kind of superior stoned rambling; at times he looked utterly out of it. “Each man has a song, and this is my song,” he proclaimed wearily. For anyone crying solipsism, he argued that “loneliness is a political act”. It sounded like prime rock-star bullshit until Palmer mixed footage of him singing “Story of Isaac” with still-shocking images of extreme military and political violence, at which point suddenly it made a very powerful kind of sense. On stage in Manchester he imagined the theatre as a ruin: “It’s well on its way,” he drawled. “And I hope the banks follow...”

'Backstage it ended with him in tears: worn out, worn down, a fascinating jigsaw of rampant ego, exhaustion, high emotion and intense self-loathing'

Geographically, the film ended where it began, in Israel. The opening scenes of Bird on a Wire were shot in Tel Aviv and showed hired goons in orange overalls beating up fans who wanted to move to the front of the hall. One hundred minutes later it climaxed with Cohen “bombed in Jerusalem” on the final date of the tour. As a Jew – “Practising? Oh, I’m always practising” - the context clearly had major cultural and personal resonance for him, and the tension that had been building throughout the film suddenly snapped.

Earlier he had described the process of singing live thus: “Sometimes you are living in a song, and sometimes it’s inhospitable and won’t admit you, and you’re left banging at the door and everybody knows it.” In Jerusalem, palpably nervous (not to mention out of his tree), Cohen was shown banging on that door to no reply, delivering a bitty, nervy, disjointed, apologetic performance which ended abruptly and prematurely with him quoting the Kabbalah and announcing that, tonight at least, “God does not sit on His throne”. Eventually, propelled by the devotion of the crowd, he came back out.

Backstage he sobbed: worn out, worn down, a fascinating jigsaw of rampant ego (“I can always be talked into going out to sing another song!”), exhaustion, high emotion, relief, chemically-induced fragmentation and intense self-loathing. At the end of this extraordinary film you could see why he eventually disappeared for five years to live in a Buddhist Zen monastery. You could also see – just; like a deer glimpsed darting through the woods - why he came back.
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Re: Bird On A Wire on BBC Four: Friday, 19th November 2010

Post by Davido » Sat Nov 20, 2010 5:35 pm

Excellent.
Thanks for posting this, Arlene.

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Re: Bird On A Wire on BBC Four: Friday, 19th November 2010

Post by lightasabreeze » Sat Nov 20, 2010 6:13 pm

Evie B wrote:Even though I own both of these dvds and can watch them any time I like (and do), I still get a indescribable kick out of watching them on national television and cannot resist sitting through them yet again.

Well done the BBC.

Evie B

Me too, even though I did watch the DVD just last week. I still wonder what the white armband was for. Anyone know?
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Re: Bird On A Wire on BBC Four: Friday, 19th November 2010

Post by MaryB » Sat Nov 20, 2010 8:28 pm

bridger15 wrote:
Saturday, 20 November 2010 01:12
Bird on a Wire, BBC Four
Written by Graeme Thomson

There was a lot of this kind of superior stoned rambling; at times he looked utterly out of it.
I now have to rewatch the film from this perspective. Thanks for posting this article Arlene.
Warmest regards,
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Re: Bird On A Wire on BBC Four: Friday, 19th November 2010

Post by slapperoonie » Sun Nov 21, 2010 12:37 am

I don't know whether this film made me feel really old or really young... the footage from the Manchester concert was from the very day I was born, and not very far from where I grew up. Part of me wishes I'd been around in that world... the rest of me is just so happy that 37 years later I still got the chance to see him perform. Great film.
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Re: Bird On A Wire on BBC Four: Friday, 19th November 2010

Post by sirius » Sun Nov 21, 2010 7:43 pm

Last night's TV

CRYING ALONG WITH LEONARD COHEN

Bird on a Wire (BBC4)

http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/ ... nard-cohen

Sam Wollaston
guardian.co.uk, Friday 19 November 2010



No, not that lame movie with Goldie Hawn and Mel Gibson, but Tony Palmer's documentary about Leonard Cohen's tour of Europe in 1972. The film, originally disliked by Cohen and abandoned, was thought to be lost. But it turned up again, in some old film cans, and Palmer has painstakingly restored it. Which is a good thing, because it's wonderful.

It looks like it would have been fun to have been on the road with Cohen and his band in the early 70s. It's not the usual kind of band-on-tour high jinks and bad behaviour. There's a lot of sitting around, naked swimming, smoking, introspective thought, writing poetry in the bath, picnicking by the side of the road, throwing pebbles into the sea – that kind of thing. While terrible things were going on in the world. But there was wine and there were women, too. Lots of women for Leonard - beautiful, big-eyed 1970s women, leaning in their darkened doors.

And jokes. Some of this film is very funny. Like the ridiculous journalists asking their ridiculous questions (though I did feel for the poor guy whose tape recorder didn't work – I've been there). And arguments with promoters over speakers that keep blowing up. And one of the band admitting that he nodded off on stage during Suzanne. And Cohen's repartee with his audiences. "Sometimes you can live in the song, but sometimes it is inhospitable and won't admit you, and you're left banging on the door and everyone knows it," he tells them. This would be baffling from most people, but because it's coming from Cohen, it makes perfect sense.

Most of all, though, it's about the music, of Cohen at the peak of his power, mesmerising audiences with beautiful, sad songs. And then, on the final night of the tour in Jerusalem, it all gets too much. Cohen breaks down on stage; he's crying, the band's crying, the audience is crying, I'm crying. I don't know why, but I am. You know what? It's OK to cry.

It would be interesting to know what any young people watching and listening made of it. Did it hit any kind of spot or was it just a bunch of miserable old hippies? Get the DVD for your dad at Christmas, and then watch him laugh and cry.
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Re: Bird On A Wire on BBC Four: Friday, 19th November 2010

Post by Evie B » Mon Nov 22, 2010 4:33 am

It is being shown again for nightbirds at 1am this coming Thursday, 25th Nov on BBC4.

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Re: Bird On A Wire on BBC Four: Friday, 19th November 2010

Post by bene449 » Mon Nov 22, 2010 11:35 am

if there is a dispute over who owns this film and is banned for sale on Amazon.com, how come it can be shown on national tv?
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Re: Bird On A Wire on BBC Four: Friday, 19th November 2010

Post by neo » Mon Nov 22, 2010 1:40 pm

Some discussion about that here: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=21844&start=120#p246561
For some reasons the rights for the UK are secured and I think that's why broadcasting on uk tv is ok too.
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Re: Bird On A Wire on BBC Four: Friday, 19th November 2010

Post by sirius » Mon Nov 22, 2010 3:30 pm

Bird on a Wire: beautiful film of Leonard Cohen and his times

Socialist Worker
Issue: 2228 dated: 20 November 2010 Reviews
Tue 16 Nov 2010


by Siân Ruddick

http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=23042

This stunning documentary follows Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen on tour in 1973—the one he claimed would be his last.

As Cohen travels through Europe, the mood of the times—one of upheaval and questioning of authority—seep through.

At one gig he tells audience members sitting in a balcony, “You seem awfully far away, why don’t you come closer?”

Fans and Cohen defy security and begin to play a set with people sitting all over the stage and on the floor.

Cohen talks about his sense of loneliness and alienation, and his hatred of the soulless reproduction of music.

His work is very cooperative and he views the process of performing and writing music as a collective act.

When one interviewer refers to “your band”, Cohen corrects them, referring instead to “the women and men I play with.”

The original documentary was rejected by Cohen.

Another producer took on the project and made a new film—but the BBC wouldn’t show it, and it had one screening before disappearing.

This version is based on the original soundtrack and the cut-offs—both recently rediscovered.

It is beautifully shot.

This film is a delight for any Leonard Cohen fan—but the photography and the atmosphere of the piece make it stunning viewing for anyone.

The only reservation I have is over one of Cohen’s gigs in Israel.

Backstage he tells his fellow musicians that “Jerusalem means city of peace”.

Whether he was trying to articulate hope, aspiration or reality was hard to tell.

Bird on a Wire, directed by Tony Palmer, will be shown on BBC4 on 19 November at 9pm and is be available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer for seven days afterwards


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Re: Bird On A Wire on BBC Four: Friday, 19th November 2010

Post by wakeupmartin » Mon Nov 22, 2010 4:26 pm

The only reservation I have is over one of Cohen’s gigs in Israel.
Backstage he tells his fellow musicians that “Jerusalem means city of peace”.
Whether he was trying to articulate hope, aspiration or reality was hard to tell.
Is that the reservation?
I've never read Socialist Worker before, but I quite like this simple style of writing: It's not really a flowing article, but rather a list of sentences. Is terse the right word? (I mean the word positively, in the sense of being brief and to the point, rather than rude or abrupt). Almost as if we're reading notes made before the article was written. Anyway, thanks for posting.
Martin
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