The U.S. vs. John Lennon (2006)

by | Jul 13, 2008 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

The U.S. vs. John Lennon (2006)

Documentary by David Leaf & John Scheinfeld
Studio: Authorized Pictures/VH1/Lionsgate [street date: July 14, 08]
Video: 1.78:1 anamorphic/enhanced for 16:9 color & B&W
Audio: English DD 5.1, DD 2.0
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Extras: Additional documentary footage: Becoming John Lennon, Power to the People, Dissent vs. Disloyalty, Then and Now, Walter Cronkite Meets the Beatles, The “Two Virgins” LP Cover, “Sometime in New York.” “Imagine” video, The One to One Benefit Concert, Yoko Ono Lennon’s Letter to the Parole Board, DVD-ROM:  Print Interview with John and Yoko
Length: 96 minutes
Rating: ****

This well-done documentary shows a different side of the Beatles’ intellectual member John Lennon, following the breakup of the Fabulous Four. Lennon had said and done some controversial things, but it didn’t get serious until he and avant-garde artist Yoko Ono moved to New York City and connected with radicals there, such as Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and the Black Panthers. Their honeymoon “bed-in” and later “bagism” press conference were wild and very effective ways to getting across their Vietnam War opposition in ways using their celebrity status, the avant performance art tactics of Ono, and a gentle, surrealist, nonviolent humor.  Sometimes the press didn’t really understand it, and the Nixon administration began to have the FBI track Lennon’s every move.  It was no surprise when a deportation notice was slipped under their door.

The film does rather speak to the choir in the choice of talking heads and subjects covered.  Negative aspects of Lennon are not mentioned, and Gordon Liddy comes off as the hated figure representing the government side – especially his comment about stopping the peaceful marching protester with a candle and lighting his cigar with it. The shots of some of the protests and marches are nostalgic, especially the crowds singing “All we are asking is give peace a chance.” Then there is the portrayal of the elation the movement felt after getting White Panthers’ founder John Sinclair released from prison – only to be smashed by the realization of Nixon getting re-elected. The long legal fight against deportation is described, including its final success. The happiness of the couple with their son Shaun is shown, followed by the tragedy of Lennon’s shooting, which affected so many.  The extras with the film are extensive and many will provide interesting viewing for those deeply interested in the subject.

 — John Sunier 
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