Leonard Cohen Live at the Isle of Wight 1970

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Average Rating: 3.9/5

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Directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Murray Lerner, and with a running time of just over 60 minutes, LEONARD COHEN LIVE AT THE ISLE OF WIGHT 1970 presents for the first time Cohen's early morning performance in front of 600,000 people at this fabled UK concert. Interwoven with the live footage are brand-new interviews with fellow festival performers Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Bob Johnston and Kris Kristofferson. Nearly 40 summers ago on August 31, 1970, 35-year-old Leonard Cohen was awakened at 2 a.m. from a nap in his trailer and brought onstage to perform with his band at the third annual Isle Of Wight music festival. The audience was in a fiery and frenzied mood, after turning the festival into a political arena, trampling the fences, setting fire to structures and equipment - and stoked by the most incendiary performance of Jimi Hendrix's career, less than three weeks before his death. As Cohen followed Hendrix's set, onlookers and fellow festival headliners Joan Baez, Kris Kristofferson, Judy Collins and others stood offstage in awe as the Canadian singer-songwriter quietly tamed the crowd. Lerner was able to capture Cohen's performance. The film is a fascinating and timely portrait of the artist as a young man, just three years into his recording career (though he was already a published poet and novelist for 15 years). As he mesmerizes the Isle of Wight audience, Cohen intersperses a baker's dozen songs with tales both real and apocryphal, as well as a handful of his poems. LEONARD COHEN LIVE AT THE ISLE OF WIGHT 1970 captures the set as performed by Cohen and his backup band: Bob Johnston (Cohen's Nashville-based Columbia A&R staff producer), and Nashville musicians Charlie Daniels (electric bass, fiddle), Ron Cornelius (lead guitar), and Elkin 'Bubba' Fowler (bass, banjo). They were joined by backup singers Corlynn Hanney, Susan Musmanno, and Donna Washburn. Lerner is known for his work on Festival!, his Oscar-nominated 1969 documentary of the Newport Folk Festivals. His work on that film spurred the Isle of Wight promoters to bring him aboard and document their festival - whose violence turned it into the last of the three original Isle of Wight festivals of 1968, 1969, and 1970. (Bob Dylan put the festival on the map when he performed there in 1968, his first public performance since recovering from his fabled motorcycle crash of 1966.) Lerner's Isle of Wight footage went unfunded for decades until 1995, when the multi-artist Message to Love (with its brief snippet of Cohen singing "Suzanne") was finally issued on video. Since then, Lerner's documentary-style Isle of Wight videos on the 1970 performances by Miles Davis, The Who, and Jimi Hendrix have inspired a new generation of music fans. In 1980, Lerner's From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. --© Laemmle

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Critic Reviews for Leonard Cohen Live at the Isle of Wight 1970

All Critics (8) | Top Critics (4)

  • A pleasurable if generally ahistoric blast to a countercultural past.

    Jan 22, 2010 | Rating: 3.5/5
  • Murray Lerner's mesmerizing docu closely chronicles Cohen's set, only occasionally breaking away to record audience reactions or interview fellow performers, who even today profess astonishment at how Cohen turned the night around.

    Jan 20, 2010 | Full Review…

    Ronnie Scheib

    Top Critic
  • Cohen followed young, hellraising Hendrix (with three weeks left to live), subduing a mutinous crowd of some 600,000 with raincoat-weather songs in 3/4 time.

    Jan 19, 2010 | Full Review…
  • Though the year has just started, Leonard Cohen Live at the Isle of Wight 1970 may well turn out to be one of the best films of 2010.

    Feb 3, 2010 | Full Review…
  • A captivating concert film that deftly captures Cohen's soulful performance that's filled with beautiful lyrics and pure, unadulterated passion, emotion and charisma.

    Jan 29, 2010 | Rating: 8.5/10 | Full Review…
  • Showcases Cohen's power as a tousled, youthful troubadour and storyteller for fans and those interested in seeing a 1970 moment forever preserved.

    Jan 23, 2010 | Rating: 7/10 | Full Review…

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