The Absolutely Fabulous TV Series Version of Leonard Cohen’s Bird On A Wire

birdabThe inclusion of Leonard Cohen’s Bird On The Wire on the soundtrack of the recently released Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie has prompted the republication of this 2007 1HeckOfAGuy.com post about the Bird On The Wire soliloquy from the Absolutely Fabulous TV series.

Featuring Edina As The Drunk In A Midnight Choir – And Wherever

In yesterday’s post, Leonard Cohen BBC Interview: “I’d like to go out [on tour] again”, the BBC interviewer alluded to the use of Leonard Cohen’s “Bird On A Wire”1 in an episode of the British sitcom, Absolutely Fabulous. And, it turns out that, although “Bird On The Wire” has been covered by everybody from Joe Cocker to Jennifer Warnes to The Bobs, the Ab Fab version is, I believe, uniquely memorable.

The Scene: Absolutely Fabulous – Bird On A Wire

Jealous: Series 3, Episode 4 (First broadcast 27 April 1995)
Edina (AKA Eddie, AKA Eddy), has expectations of winning the PR Person of the Year Award over her rival, Claudia Bing, but, despite rigging the vote, loses instead and wants revenge. Later, at an industry luncheon, Edina loses her prepared remarks but proceeds unabated to give a drunken speech, one portion of which consists of the lyrics of “Bird On A Wire.”

The Dialog: Absolutely Fabulous – Bird On A Wire

From IDMB (with “Bird On A Wire” lyrics placed in bold by me):

[Edina (Eddie) has lost her speech which she has to present to the PR meeting]

Eddie: Yeah I was gonna’ make a-

[taps microphone]

Eddie: Testing. Testing. -Yeah I was gonna’ make a speech, but I just can’t be bothered anymore. I mean, this used to be like fun you know; yeah it used to be fun, but I’m getting bored of all the ‘fun’ bits now. You know, your endless bloody lunches and launches, you know, no-career celebrities and party desperates. And what for, huh? Some colony of crap tags and mags! Well I’m sorry there has to be a little more than that doesn’t there?

[slams her handbag down]

Eddie: Hmmm? You know I had a speech, you know, my… my integrated-projected-global-tele-network system bloody system-system. But you know, if that’s what the worlds coming to I don’t want to be in it. No I don’t want that. I don’t want to be in some sort of cyber-space-hypervirtual bloody reality. I don’t want that- exchanging e-mails with some old age bloody hippies with more information at their fingertips than is safe to know about. I don’t want that! What kind of reality is that, huh, you know, with a thirteen-amp plug on the end of it? Huh? Huh?… That can be un-plugged like that? Come-on I’m going.

[She turns to leave, but… ]

Eddie: No I’m not going yet! No, you!

[points to her competition, Claudia Bing]

Eddie: You, you, just sit there like your velcroed to some bloody add-man! You know those crap-head add-men over there, you know, those kings of bastardization that have just taken everything that was ever real and genuine and honest and original and attached it to a toilet cleaner! Whereas I, I… Like a bird on a wire… Like a drunk in a midnight choir… I have tried in my way to be free.

[Then she sings]

Eddie: Like a bird, on a wire.

Patsy: Go for it Eddy.

Eddie: [singing] … Like a drunk in a midnight choir. I have tried in my way to be free.

[Claudia Bing and her colleagues are laughing]

Eddie: Yeah you can laugh, but you know something- I don’t want more choice I just want nicer things! And you, you can take that look off your face, sitting there with your… with your wheels and AIDS and starvation. You know, skimming a neat profit of the whole of human misery. Labeling us all with this- with this global guilt. Well it may not be all great and good but it ain’t that bad, so cheer up world it may never bloody happen!

[slams her bag down again]

Eddie: Come on I’m going.

[Edina walks off making rude farting sounds at everyone in the room]

Audio Only: Absolutely Fabulous – Bird On A Wire

Edina – “Bird On A Wire”
Spoken word portion

Edina – “Bird On A Wire”
Singing portion

Video: Absolutely Fabulous – Bird On A Wire

This clip (may not be available in all countries) comprises the final third of Absolutely Fabulous Series 3, Episode 4: Jealous (First broadcast 27 April 1995). The pertinent portion begins at 4:35

 

Note: Originally posted July 17, 2007 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

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  1. Yes, I know that the name of the song on Leonard Cohen’s Songs From A Room album is “Bird On The Wire.” In the Ab Fab episode, it’s “Bird On A Wire” – as it is in The Essential Leonard Cohen album. []

Watch 1996 Film Homage To Leonard Cohen: “Leonard, Light My Cigarette” (Bravo!)

In 1996, the Bravo! Channel broadcast Leonard, Light My Cigarette,1 a Canadian experimental film that examined the cultural impact of Leonard Cohen. The poem that serves as narration is Leonard, Light My Cigarette by Tony Babinski, who wrote

You must understand that the film is a love letter to one man and as such the lexicon is perhaps a bit obscure to those not from the same milieu. Leonard Cohen saw the film in October 1996 and pronounced it “…brilliant…excellent…”

The imagery was very familiar to Leonard – he called me after viewing it to tell me how much he liked it – liked it is a mild word – but I don’t want to sound immodest. Our conversation was short but you can imagine my joy. He mentioned Beautiful Losers and his desire to see it made as a feature film. Look for more news about that in the very near future. 2

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  1. Leonard, Light My Cigarette, a film by J. Jacob Potashnik. Poetry and music by Tony Babinski (also starring Darkman). Produced by Jacob Potashnik and Tony Babinski for mtl/ART, in association with Bravo!Fact, a foundation to assist Canadian talent, supported by Bravo Network. Running time 6:22 minutes. Canada, 1996. []
  2. From Leonard, Light My Cigarette at LeonardCohenFiles []

Video: Hunt for the Wilderpeople Soundtrack Features Leonard Cohen Performance Of “The Partisan”

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The role of Leonard Cohen’s rendition of “The Partisan” in the positively-reviewed Hunt for the Wilderpeople is described in this excerpt from Deep Focus: Hunt for the Wilderpeople by Michael Sragow (Film Comment: June 23, 2016):

We know we’re in good hands from the opening moments, when the New Zealand greenery undulates across the screen while an otherworldly choral chant fills the soundtrack. Even Child Welfare’s Paula seems to tap her pen in counterpoint to the music. The whole movie has an eccentric rhythm because this director is confident enough to let scenes sit and breathe before accelerating his narrative with peppy deadpan montages. In one charged sequence, timed to Leonard Cohen’s “Song of the French Partisan,” Waititi unfolds the action in the cinematic equivalent of a mural. Via some optical and/or digital wizardry, the camera doesn’t stop moving from left to right as we see Hec, Ricky, and Tupac disappear into the snowy forest while bounty hunters, cops, and guardsmen trail them and Paula huffs and scowls eloquently, at different times and without a cut. It’s startling when the paths of heavily armed lawmen and Paula intersect. It’s as if time and space have merged kinetically. [bolding mine]

Update – 23 September 2016: Video now online

Leonard Cohen’s “I’m Your Man” Featured In The Fundamentals of Caring

fundamentals-of-caring-poster quoteup2
Well if we’re going to replace [Leonard Cohen’s “I’m Your Man”], we’re just going to take that scene out, because it’s the only reason it’s there.quotedown2

Rob Burnett
Writer-Director

Note: A synopsis of this movie’s plot can be found at The Fundamentals of Caring: EW Review by Leah Greenblatt (Entertainment: June 23, 2016)

In this excerpt from Paul Rudd and filmmaker Rob Burnett on The Fundamentals of Caring by Edward Douglas (ComingSoon.net: June 21, 2016), Rob Burnett talks about the significance of Leonard Cohen’s “I’m Your Man” to the movie and to himself personally:

CS: I have to imagine that a movie like this would always be difficult tonally, but I’ve been reading that as far as music, you have some Leonard Cohen in there, so what was your approach to using the music to help create that tone.

Burnett: We had a music supervisor, Joe Rudge. We tried to come up with stuff that fit the mood but didn’t lean too heavily into things. The Leonard Cohen song (“I’m Your Man”) and the Kishi Bashi song (“Bright Whites”) are an exception. We actually found that female lyricists were better, because it didn’t feel like they were singing from Craig’s point of view, so a lot of my taste in music, I do like a lot of indie music, and when you start to put some of that stuff on some of this, it starts to feel really old-fashioned, in a way. It’s just in that constant effort to stay away from sentimentality. The Leonard Cohen song, that scene I wrote because of that song. I adore that song, it’s always resonated with me for some reason. If you listen to the lyrics of that song, the vulnerability of what he’s saying, but with the virility of his voice, the two of those things—not too corny—can almost make me weep if I’m in the right mood. That scene exists in the movie because of that song. It wasn’t dirt cheap but at one point they said, “Well, can we replace it?” and I said, “Well if we’re going to replace it, we’re just going to take that scene out, because it’s the only reason it’s there.” [bolding mine]

And this excerpt from Sundance 2016: ‘The Fundamentals of Caring’ balances sweetness with biting black humor by Lane Scarberry (PopOptic: February 3, 2016) elaborates on the function of the song in the film:

There’s a visual romanticization of these girls that goes along with how removed Trevor is from normal physical life. When we meet Dot for the second time, the camera lingers on her for quite some time while Trevor stares and Leonard Cohen’s passionate “I’m Your Man” plays. This smartly redirects the looking behavior back to Trevor, implying that he would do anything to be with her if he could. While Dot’s body is a passive object, so is Trevor’s for his lack of courage. It’s not exactly progressive, but the choice means more than a song that would have more explicitly dissected her looks.

Fundamentals of Caring Trailer

Credit Due Department: A tip of DrHGuy’s Cohenesque fedora goes to Sara Lyke, who alerted me (via the Duchess) to the Leonard Cohen song on this movie’s soundtrack.

Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine: The Prom Version From I Am A Hotel

ihogelThis is the third post in the Leonard Cohen Down Memories Laine series examining “Memories” by Leonard Cohen.

I Am A Hotel: Memories

Within “I Am A Hotel,” the Memories video depicts a high school prom held at the hotel’s ballroom. Cohen not only appears as a resident of the hotel but also as the singer-bandleader providing live music for the dance from an elevated stage. A stylized dance performed by a bellhop and hotel maid is Interspersed with the prom scenes.

The sequence is too artsy, too fartsy for my taste, but hey, as the American Bandstand kids would point out, the song has a beat and – apparently – you can dance to it (at least after a few years of professional training). On the other hand, the brassy sax solo does grab me in an indecent way, and Leonard as the sunglasses-clad implacable singer coupled with Leonard as the leering hotel guest encouraging the bellhop and maid toward the (titter) climax is as creepy-nasty-exciting as ones first illicit sexual liaison with someone a lot more experienced and adventuresome in bed.

Continue Reading →

“Would prestige TV even exist without Leonard Cohen?”

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This year’s [The Americans] Grim Montage was soundtracked by Leonard Cohen’s notably cheery “Who by Fire.” (Would prestige TV even exist without Leonard Cohen? Has any song in his catalog gone unused for this purpose? Can someone please green-light a David Milch series called Jazz Police?)quotedown2

Rob Harvilla

From How Can ‘The Americans’ Possibly Last Two More Seasons? by Rob Harvilla (The Ringer: 09 June 2016)

Leonard Cohen’s Who By Fire At The “Heart Of The Americans’s Plaintive Season Finale”

americans

On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the sinner’s fate is sealed. To be blotted out of the Book of Life, in scripture’s cruel parlance, is to be culled from the ranks of the righteous, and it’s this eternal exile to which Leonard Cohen turns in his 1974 track “Who by Fire.” The spare, tragic ballad, inspired by Jewish tradition, but attuned to fears of a more modern sort, forms the hardened heart of The Americans’s plaintive season finale, rising on the soundtrack as Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell) face an expulsion of their own. “Persona Non Grata,” in which Gabriel (Frank Langella) urges his agents to flee the country, forces these unwelcome guests in Cold War America to confront the question that defines the immigrant experience: At what point is the place from whence we came no longer the place we call “home”?

Excerpt from The Americans Recap Season 4, Episode 13, “Persona Non Grata” by Matt Brennan (Slant: June 8, 2016)

Credit Due Department: Thanks to Rike and Frances Sloan, both of whom alerted me to the appearance of Who By Fire in this episode of The Americans.

Leonard Cohen’s “There Is A War” Plays Pivotal Role In Structure Of Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s “Tug of War: Foreign Fire”

tugIt turns out that Leonard Cohen’s music enhances not only edgy TV series such as Peaky Blinders and True Detective and groundbreaking movies such as Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller but also productions of Shakespeare’splays.

On May 21, 2016, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater debuted “Tug of War: Foreign Fire,” a trilogy of Shakespeare plays – Edward III, Henry V, and Henry VI. Part One – performed the same day over a six hour span (with three breaks).  (A second trilogy comprising Henry VI, Parts Two and Three and Richard III will be staged late summer/fall 2016.)

The significance of Leonard Cohen’s “There Is a War” is made apparent in this excerpt from Chicago Shakespeare Theater – Tug of War: Foreign Fire by City Desk 400 Staff. City Desk 400: June 3, 2016:

But [Artistic Director Barbara] Gaines has purposefully split up Shakespeare’s three-part series, perhaps in part to make the point that war has no finale because we keep fighting the same wars again and again in each generation. To emphasize this point, Gaines adds a postlude, in which the entire cast dons those fold-up Christmas cracker crowns and sings a couple of choruses of “Why don’t you come on back to the war?” from Leonard Cohen’s “There Is a War,” concluding on the line “let’s all get even.” Nothing is finished, war just keeps coming back. Thus we conclude with a depressing but appropriate commentary on our inability to keep the peace.

Bonus: Tug of War: Foreign Fire Montage