The U.S. vs. John Lennon
One of the best ways to measure greatness is if the work and the message can survive the passage of time. While John Lennon's music has aged, it remains ageless and his words are as pertinent now as they were when he first spoke them. I've often wondered what would have happened to Lennon if Chapman's gun jammed that tragic night in December 1980. Would he have stayed relevant during the Reagan years? Could his passion survive the War on Terror? We'll never know for sure but the new film The U.S. vs. John Lennon gives us a pretty good idea the answers would be a resounding yes.
The U.S. vs. John Lennon is more of a love letter to, than a documentary about John. It tells the story of the "smart Beatle," beginning in 1966 when he first started to make public political statements through 1975 with the U.S. government's failed attempt to have him deported. The film features 40 songs and previously unseen footage that gives the viewer a glimpse of the love between Ono and Lennon. Interviews abound throughout the film with such notables as Gore Vidal, Walter Cronkite, George McGovern and even G. Gordon Libby.
The downside of the movie is that it doesn't have much the diehard fans haven't already heard. It is a great trip down memory lane but seems geared more for the younger generation as an introductory course on peace activism of the late 60s. You may have noticed that among the list of interviewees the absence of anyone named Paul or Ringo, which only serves as a sad reminder of the rift among the Beatles. I do have to admit the scenes of The Mike Douglas Show with real conversations about politics is a remedial class that all television news execs should be forced to take.
The 21-song soundtrack, not surprisingly, includes protest songs and hits that complement the film nicely, but if you're a Lennon fan then you probably own nearly every song on the disc. What else would you expect from a man who’s had over 20 albums released since his demise? Some of the highlights are "Power to the People", "Give Peace a Chance", "God" and "Imagine." The album also includes two live recordings from the 1971 John Sinclair Freedom Rally that are a nice addition to any collection, including the previously unreleased "Attica State." My favorite touch is the inclusion of sound bytes and speeches sliced between songs revealing Lennon's biting wit and passion for peace.
Go see The U.S. vs. John Lennon and reminisce about what was and what could have been. The problems still persist, the music is still amazing, and hopefully a new generation will be introduced to this bespectacled poet whose words and songs are needed as much now as ever before.
~ Justin La Mort