US vs JOHN LENNON, THE
John Lennon, ex Beatle and singer songwriter who eventually adopted New York as his home, used his fame and his fortune to protest the Vietnam War and advocate world peace. The film traces Lennon's metamorphosis from a lovable Moptop of The Beatles in the 60s, to anti-war activist to inspirational icon in the 70s as it examines how and why the U.S. government tried to deport him.
Review by Louise Keller:
If you think you know everything there is to know about John Lennon, think again. This riveting documentary hones in on the anti-establishment, controversial side of the former Beatle, providing a frightening context to his assassination in 1980. It's a portrait of a unique individual who wanted to make a difference and used his celebrity to spread the message of peace. It's as gripping as any thriller and as moving as any drama with the added fascination of the unfathomable relationship between John and Yoko.
"You can't be silent about anything - unless you're a monk," says John Lennon with a wicked grin, when asked about the Vietnam War. First of all, Lennon was always an artist. "He was fiercely rebellious," says Yoko Ono, whose all-important presence in the documentary strongly links the past with the present. As so much of Lennon's life played out before the camera, there is a visual record of much of it, making our journey into the 60s and 70s complete. Political activists, authors, reporters, academics, sociologists and historians all contribute through interviews, and their relevance to the pertinent issues make this meticulously researched film even more hard-hitting.
There is a child-like poignancy about the way the besotted John and Yoko behaved towards each other; it's as though they lived in a utopian world of their own. 'Love is real, real is love,' goes the song, as John and Yoko gaze in each other's eyes, playfully kissing during their celebrated bed-in, when they invited the media to join their honeymoon in their bedroom of the Amsterdam Hilton.
The crux of the film lies in establishing Lennon's anti-war sentiments ('Give Peace a Chance') and the stomach-churning response of the US Government. Big Brother started watching (with phone taps and surveillance) after Lennon's prominent vocal support for the release of poet/activist John Sinclair was successful. While Lennon advocated peace, love and the formation of Nutopia, the Nixon Government loudly campaigned for war. The government's strident attempts to deport him failed, and the evidence as revealed by Immigration attorney Leon Wildes, is damning. There is much to inform, shock, amuse and entertain in this persuasive film that reminds and connects us with a peaceful revolutionary whose songs and message will live forever.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It comes as something of a shock to be reminded of the volatility of the US in the late 60s and the 70s, as the country wrestled its demons. The Civil Rights movement came to be galvanised by the song We Shall Overcome and a few years later, it was an English muso newly settled in New York, John Lennon, who wrote the seminal anthem for the peace movement, Give Peace A Chance. In this gripping and technically excellent, powerful yet sensitive documentary, we are made aware of the power of one; of the power of ideas, a force clearly greater than guns.
John and Yoko Ono used their ability to get media coverage for a purpose: to confront the ruling establishment with the simple notion summed up in Give Peace A Chance. The striking stupidity of mankind is highlighted by the establishment's response: they wanted him silenced. How much better it would have been had the Nixon administration jumped on the peace bandwagon. But as Lennon quips after eventually beating the deportation order, when asked if he felt any bitterness towards those who wanted him out: "Well, as they say, time wounds all heels.." Of course in speech it sounds like the inversion of 'time heals all wounds' and it's a quip he must have prepared, or else he was blessed with genuine comic genius (as well as musical genius).
It's an honest, incisive and multi-faceted documentary which wears its heart on its sleeve, giving Lennon posthumously and Yoko Ono in the living present, the kind of retrospective platform they found very hard to get at the time from mainstream media. But they did reach millions around the world with their message, and as Yoko Ono poignantly says, 'they tried to kill John ... but they couldn't" - a remark that goes to the heart of this remarkable story. John Lennon, who matured into a peacenick with principles and he retained a sense of fun doing it, came to represent the hopes of his generation (and the hopes of other generations, too). As all morally bankrupt powerbases or movements come to learn, you can't eradicate or silence human decency and the desire for peace. Lennon showed how showbiz success can be harnessed for the common good.
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US vs JOHN LENNON, THE (M)
CAST: Documentary featuring John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Tariq Ali, Carl Bernstein, Walter Cronkite, Noam Chomsky, J. Edgar Hoover, Gore Vidal, Geraldo Rivera, Leon Wildes, Bobby Seale and others
PRODUCER: David Leaf, John Scheinfeld
DIRECTOR: David Leaf, John Scheinfeld
SCRIPT: David Leaf, John Scheinfeld
CINEMATOGRAPHER: James Mathers
EDITOR: Peter S. Lynch II
OTHER: Stephanie Masarsky (visual effects producer)
RUNNING TIME: 99 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 31, 2007
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