Sunday, October 22, 2006


On a single day in September 1992, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Norman Lamont, lost £3.3bn trying to keep the UK inside the Exchange Rate Mechanism. Later that night, when the pound had been forced to devalue despite this massive intervention, Lamont appeared on the news looking insouciant and said, "It has been a bad day." A characteristically British under-statement. I've had a bad day too insofar as I am sick. The kind of ill that requires you to leave five shillings for the scout on the mantelpiece. The kind of ill that requires you to hand back piles of unused cinema tickets. I'm not usually melodramatic about being ill but isn't it just typical that it happens during the film fest? Anyways, the reason for me blathering on about this is that it shows just how much I enjoyed the two films I watched today i.e. I had a good time despite the variety of the wine.

John Lennon was a born enemy of those who control the United States, which I always say was admirable. Lennon came to represent life, while Mr. Nixon... and Mr. Bush... represent death. The first was a new documentary by David Leaf and John Scheinfeld - veterans of the rock-documentary game. THE US VERSUS JOHN LENNON doesn't really do anything revolutionary with the genre - indeed, it's not especially visually stunning and you could happily just watch it on your TV. Neither does the documentary uncover any new facts or insight. Any Beatles fan will know the basic facts. Love-able mop-top strains at the image - gets political, meets Yoko Ono, stages a sit in. Gets involved with radical political activists, gets wire-tapped by J Edgar Hoover, gets threatened with deportation by the INS. Actually nothing bad happens because the gruesome nightmare that was the Nixon Administration explodes in the middle of it all. The other thing is that this doc has Yoko Ono's approval which means that basically you date the birth of Lennon's political consciousness to the date when he meets her. Which may be the case. What do I know?

The reason why I had such a good time watching this doc is threefold. First, Lennon is just very bright and a lot of fun. It's fun to watch him take down The Man on live TV. Second, it's great to re-live or imagine what it must have been like to live in an era when political protests had bite. When kids really did think they could change the world as opposed to the channel. Third, it's great to see the hideous relics of Liddy, Nixon et al get skewered in the end. Malicious, I know.

The only other point I want to make - and this is the Key Fact here - is that if you want to see this doc, despite what I said about it being un-cinematic visually - you should really try and see it in a movie theatre - and preferably a packed one. Because this movie is perfectly timed to co-incide with the fear and loathing of the current Bush adminstration and there were four moments when a satirical swipe by Lennon or a particularly apposite comment by Gore Vidal got the audience spontaneously applauding. And that's why we go to the movies rather than watching stuff on DVD. For those rare moments when we can feel part of a shared reaction. Great stuff.

THE US VERSUS JOHN LENNON played Venice, Telluride, Toronto and London 2006 and opened in the US in September. It opens in the Netherlands and in the UK in December.

1 comment:

  1. I definitely want to see this one in a movie theater, but they just don't play movies this subsersive in my little of the world .. Just watching the trailer gave me chills, so I know I'll enjoy this one immensely