The opening scenes of Tony Palmer’s documentary, Bird on a Wire, about Leonard Cohen’s five-week European tour in 1972 — which began in Dublin — show security manhandling concertgoers in Tel Aviv. Cohen coos softly, in his Quebecker drawl, into a microphone: “I know you’re trying to do your job, but you don’t have to do it with your fists.”
The documentary, which will be screened for free for Cork Film Festival ticket holders, is a portrait of a sensitive, exhausted 37-year-old singer songwriter maintaining control of himself on a chaotic tour at odds with his nature (although he still comes on to beautiful women while being followed by a camera crew). “He told everybody, including me, that he never wanted to tour again,” says Palmer. “He thought this was not him. He was a poet. He didn’t want to be just a caged parrot made to repeat the same old songs.”
Festival goers can also watch Palmer tackling Benjamin Britten, in Nocturne. Britten, like Cohen, is one of life’s pacifists.
The film, which is due to be screened at the White House, marks the centenary of Britten’s birth, and examines his response to being an artist in a brutal, war-ravaged world.
In Not Criminally Responsible, the Emmy award-winning documentary maker John Kastner looks at how a pretty, 22-year-old Canadian woman forgave a schizophrenic man who randomly stabbed her six times outside a shopping mall in 1999. It is a remarkable testament to the power of therapy and a clarion call to society not to stigmatise the mentally ill.
Alexander Payne, who directed the cult classic Sideways, delivers another road movie in Nebraska. An alcoholic hi-fi salesman and his son drive to collect a sweepstake win, in a voyage of discovery for Bruce Dern, who plays the dad in a Palme d’Or-winning, best-actor performance.
In conjunction with a screening of one of his short films, Breakfast Wine, Dylan Moran, the comedian, creator and star of Black Books, will take a walk through his favourite movies, on stage at the Cork Opera House.
The Israeli film, Fill the Void, is a meditation on an age-old social practice. When 18-year-old Shira’s older sister dies while giving birth, it is decided that she should marry the widower. Both parties have their doubts, however.
Blue is the Warmest Colour, also known as Adele, caused a stir at the Cannes Film Festival earlier in the year for its lengthy lesbian sex scenes.
The film — which follows Adele, a young school girl, as she comes of age through a love affair with an artist she spots on the street one day — scooped the Palme d’Or award for best film.
Meanwhile, some old art-house favourites being re-run at this year’s festival include a spaced-out Harry Dean Stanton in Paris, Texas, Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie in Don’t Look Now, and David Bowie in Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth.
* Nov 9-17, www.corkfilmfestival.org
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