This movie, made in 1972, during a 20 city tour, explores the fatigue, the technical snafus, the distractions, the allure, and the insanity that accompanies a bunch of musicians who must please a different audience every night one night after another in a rigorous schedule sort of like a campaign of battles fought by soldiers. What if your mission is not made clear? Or if the guns fail to fire?
And after a while, if the customers demand a refund because the equipment keeps backfiring and sending out reverb and static and screeching noises instead of music.
As a person, Cohen sails through the rocky shoals that a sexy musician like him must. Many women have crushes on him. Women who back him up on vocals seem to have more than a professional relationship with him. The camera crew itself dogs him on tour, and keeps insisting on extreme close ups of his face, and blacking out any detail that might help us understand why he is going through mental anguish.
But then there are the brilliant songs, and his singing of them.There is the inner peace and mystical aura of the man. Cohen’s attractiveness draws crowds who hunger for more of him than he can provide. You understand the conflict. An artist of the first order is introspective, but is expected to singing songs to huge crowds night after night.
When I think of Bob Dylan, his contemporary, who wrote and still writes equally compelling songs, and how Dylan is on the Endless Tour, I cannot think of two artists more dissimilar. Dylan thrives on performing.
The story of Cohen and his need to tour at the end of his life after being bamboozled by his business manager is well known. But by then, in the years just before he died last year, he was able to present the songs without giving up his soul. In his thirties, when this movie was made, it is not so clear.
I only wish the filmmaker provided more information. For instance, who was the footage of small children, and families of? Why was the blonde woman shown so significantly? Was it so hard to identify these people? The impression I got from the film was that the filmmaker or his heirs were cashing in on Cohen’s recent death and pulled this relic out of storage. They might have done a tiny bit of editing but just showed it with all of its flaws. Still, I never tire of hearing him sign those great songs.