Thursday, November 10, 2011

The U.S. vs. John Lennon

The U.S. vs. John Lennon; documentary, USA, 2006; D: David Leaf, John Scheinfeld, S: John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Richard Nixon, J. Edgar Hoover, Ron Kovic, Tariq Ali, Bobby Seale, Gore Vidal, Noam Chomsky

The documentary explores the awakening of political and activist consciousness within ex-Beatles member John Lennon during his stay in New York at the time of the Vietnam War. Rebellious since his childhood, Lennon and his love Yoko Ono made the public stunt of staying in bed in Amsterdam as long as the war is still waging; he wrote the songs "Give Peace a Chance" and "Imagine" where he advocated peace as well as give public anti-war speeches and support the Black Panthers. In a transparent attempt, the government tried to deport him from the US. Still, Lennon won the case and the war ended in '73.

Since John Lennon is one of the most opulent personalities of the 20th century, almost any movie trying to put anything from his life on the screen already has the potential to be interesting, and this documentary by the directorial duo Leaf-Scheinfeld gives a quality retrospect of his his political activism burning inside his blood during the wild 70s and the Vietnam War. Back then, Lennon was almost some sort of a forerunner to Michael Moore: he was a showbiz celebrity who used his status to promote liberal-pacifist messages to the masses, deliberately attacking the government in office. The realization of the movie is standard, yet the energetic guest speakers (from Tariq Ali up to Gore Vidal), frequent use of the protagonist's songs and the extensive use of rare-obscure archive footage of a "daft" Lennon back in those days (especially in the humorous publicity stunts where he and Ono would cover their whole bodies with a sheet during an interview in Vienna or stay laying in bed in a room in Amsterdam as long as the war is waging!) give it charm and wit that lack in the "present" chunks of the movie.


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