Image from the motion picture Bird on a Wire (1974) Image from the motion picture Bird on a Wire (1974)

Three by Tony: Bird on a Wire

Documentary, Music | 1974 | 95MIN


Tony Palmer


Leonard Cohen
Donna Washburn
Ron Cornelius

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On March 18, 1972, Leonard Cohen began a 20-city European tour, beginning in Dublin and ending in Jerusalem on April 21st. Palmer’s documentary is a masterful, intimate impression of what happened along the way. A particularly fraught moment in Cohen’s early career, the film captures Cohen leading a band that, at the time, included legendary Nashville record producer Bob Johnston on keyboards (the two having recently worked together on Cohen’s 1971 LP Songs of Love and Hate). Considerable technical and logistical problems plagued the tour, resulting in tense confrontations with fans, ending with a concert at Jerusalem’s Binyanei Hauma where Cohen, in an already emotionally raw state, took LSD before going on stage. Cohen’s biographer Sylvie Simmons recounts that Cohen wept while watching an early cut of this film, calling it “all too true”. A testament to Cohen’s genius, and one of the greatest concert films ever produced.

Programmed by Michael Chaiken

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