The US Vs John Lennon (2006) Review

The US Vs John Lennon (2006) Review 1
The US Vs John Lennon (2006) Review
The US Vs John Lennon (2006)
Director(s): David Leaf, John Scheinfeld
Actor(s): John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Stew Albert
Running Time: 99 min
| December 7, 2006

On the 26th anniversary of the death of John Lennon, I commemorated the life of one of the most influential and talented artists of the 20th century in the best way I could think of: I watched a documentary about the man. The film The US Vs John Lennon covers the period of time between when Lennon famously said that the Beatles were “bigger than Jesus”, and his untimely death at the age of 40 after being shot by Mark David Chapman. The period in between saw Lennon become a folk hero to some and an enemy of the state to others.

Directors David Leaf and John Scheinfeld narrate the film with archival footage of Lennon and new interviews with the likes of Walter Cronkite, Mario Cuomo, Angela Davis, Ron Kovic, G. Gordon Liddy, George McGovern, Geraldo Rivera, Gore Vidal and of course, Yoko Ono. The film specifically deals with Lennon’s ‘69 reinvention as a solo artist and peace activist, particularly after he began dating Yoko Ono in ‘68. Highlights like John and Yoko’s bed-in for peace in Amsterdam and Montreal (where they recorded “Give Peace a Chance”), the FBI’s surveillance of the couple leading up to the 1972 Presidential election and the Nixon administrations attempts to deport them are all covered. Leaf and Scheinfeld also allow for the greater socio-political impacts to be explored as Lennon is seen picking up the baton dropped by “Flower Power” and taking the peace movement into a new direction with “Imagine” and “War is Over (If You Want It)”.

Leaf and Scheinfeld draw easy analogies to the current political climate, including one damning quote from Vidal who says, “Lennon came to represent life, while Mr. Nixon… and Mr. Bush… represent death.” Before the movie, a trailer for the Dixie Chicks doc Shut Up and Sing ran, drawing more blatant, although unintentional, comparisons between eras as scenes of Dixie Chicks CDs being ground under by bulldozers played back in my head while watching the establishment of Lennon’s day call for a public burning of Beatles paraphernalia. But as well researched and as well made as the movie is I think that sometimes the documentary feels too much like a “Behind the Music” special, which is hardly surprising given that it was co-produced by VH1.

But lineage matters not because The US Vs John Lennon is a decently made ode to a man who believed simply that peace was a state of mind within all our grasps should we only choose to take. And his music was pretty good too.

Final Thoughts
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