A BBC documentary on the bard of Manhattan, taken, presumably, from the officially-released, but out of print, VHS. No real info is provided with the DVD-R, so I had to do some hunting around to find out more about the source. (See below on that count.) You have to wait for the credits to even find out that this was produced by John Archer and directed by Bob Portway for the BBC. While this is a wonderful find for Cohen fans, be forewarned that some generation loss has rendered the colors somewhat bleached-out, although not to distracting/annoying levels. Some of the archival footage is in B&W, too. Sound is pretty good, in Dolby 2.0.
It's a bare-bones production, however, and that's putting things kindly. There are no features whatsoever -- the only menu that appears onscreen is the DVD title. No song index. You can't access individual tracks at all; you have to advance each one manually.
Unfortunately said indexing is just plain weird! For example, given that there are interviews and non-music footage interspersed between live songs, you'd think those would be indexed separately. Nope. Track 6 is made up of "Take This Waltz," an interview clip, and the first half of "Hallelluja." Then track 7 begins in the middle of "Hallelluja." Pretty damn sloppy.
Oh well. By way of the relevant info, then, the following is lifted (all apologies...) from an online source for Cohen fans, www.leonardcohenfiles.com:
The film, originally produced by the BBC in 1988, is a full-length concert intervowen with interview footage shot in Athens, Hydra and New York plus rare and rarely seen documentary footage of Leonard’s childhood and early career. The music comes from Cohen's I'm Your Man tour of 1988.
Running time: 70 minutes. Produced by the BBC and CMV Enterprises. The video was released in VHS PAL and NTSC formats as well as on laser-disc but unfortunately has been sold out for years.
REVIEW: " Songs From the Life of Leonard Cohen was also originally shown on TV--British TV, that is. More a biographical documentary than a concert, the 70-minute program combines live performances--some complete, many abridged--mainly from Cohen's 1988 show at Carnegie Hall, in support of his then-current album, I'm Your Man, with interviews with Cohen himself, his original musical patron Judy Collins and protege Jennifer Warnes. There's also fascinating film footage of Cohen as a young poet in the '60s, and, back again in 1988, revisiting old haunts such as New York's Chelsea Hotel, where he met Janis Joplin, and the Greek island of Hydra, where he wrote such classics as "Bird on a Wire" and met the love of his life and inspiration of his classic "So Long, Marianne."
Though he's had years of success in Europe, Cohen seems to be enjoying a rediscovery here, thanks to the all-star tribute album, I'm Your Fan, and Cohen's excellent new disc, The Future. So the belated domestic availability of this BBC production turns out to be a well-timed primer for new Cohen fans. And the program will certainly fascinate longtime devotees.