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Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire (1974)

Not Rated | | Documentary, Music | August 2010 (USA)
Directed by celebrated British filmmaker Tony Palmer, "Bird on a Wire" follows Cohen on his 1972 European tour. Long lost 16mm prints were restored for this release, not seen since 1972.


Tony Palmer


Tony Palmer
1 nomination. See more awards »


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Credited cast:
Leonard Cohen ... Himself
Ron Cornelius Ron Cornelius ... Himself - electric and acoustic guitar
Bob Johnston Bob Johnston ... Himself - piano and organ
Udo Jürgens ... Himself
Doris Kunstmann ... Herself / German actress
Peter Marshal Peter Marshal ... Himself - electric and acoustic bass (as Peter Marshall)
David O'Connor David O'Connor ... Himself - acoustic guitar
Esther Ofarim ... Herself
Jennifer Warnes Jennifer Warnes ... Herself - vocals
Donna Washburn Donna Washburn ... Herself - vocals


Directed by celebrated British filmmaker Tony Palmer, "Bird on a Wire" follows Cohen on his 1972 European tour. Long lost 16mm prints were restored for this release, not seen since 1972.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Documentary | Music


Not Rated | See all certifications »






Release Date:

August 2010 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

The Machat Company See more »
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Technical Specs




Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See full technical specs »

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User Reviews

Mediocre film ruined by disturbing footage
12 November 2016 | by StreethawkSee all my reviews

*NO SPOILER, BUT A VERY GRAPHIC CONTENT WARNING* I'm not a great Leonard Cohen fan, but now he is topical (i.e. just died) this film is getting shown on the television so it got left on last night. His music is OK, the words are poetic but the melody and accompanying music Seems somewhat monotonal and often distractingly off-key. Maybe this is so as to not detract from the lyrics and as a delivery method it is reasonably effective. The musical content aside, this is no ground-breaking film. That it was pieced back together from 3000 clips is impressive, but not as awesome as if it had been a more interesting subject - it's a music tour documentary and it's pretty run-of-the-mill; you like the ones about a band you love and otherwise just go "meh, seen it all before". The director is not one I've seen any work of previously, and I'm not likely to want hunt his work out in the future. Footage has been worked in to accompany some of the songs and, whilst it may be fitting to the subject, is not always what you might expect and here's the crux of my review: there's one part of the film that I'm now always now going to associate with this artist every time I hear one of his songs and it's not right that I should because it's not his fault, it's the director's. The film contains actual footage of an actual person being actually executed. If you don't know it's coming it is actually disturbing and will actually stay with you for the rest of your life. There's other images of people being horribly killed, but the one that sticks with me is of a man being shot in the head in Vietnam, complete with all the images of what happens to a person when they are executed in this manner. The still photo from this footage is well known, but I didn't know it comes from a film. Now i know it does and won't forget it. It's not Hollywood, it's graphic in the way you know only real life can be. So if you want to see a fairly drab 70s "rockumentary" and never see life in quite the same way again, watch this film. Otherwise go buy an album and enjoy the pictures you choose to put in your head rather than those another interpret's for you, which has always been the point of poetry, hasn't it?

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