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Dirs: David Leaf/John Scheinfeld.US. 2006. 99mins.
Despite its provocative title, David Leaf and John Sch=einfeld'sdocumentary The US Vs John Lennon isas much a friendly portrait of the late Beatle as political activist as anexpose of early 1970s White House efforts to deport him for that activism. =Butit fails to clearly delineate when Lennon affected his times politically asopposed to when he was just responding to them. As a result, the featureundercuts the drama in Lennon's immigration struggle to stay in the US andoverstates his prescience as a political figure.

US distributor LionsgateFilms believes there's enough contemporary relevance to Lennon's anti-Vietn=amwar views and deportation battles to merit theatrical release (Sept 15 in t=he US, after appearances at Veniceand Toronto).That's made especially clear in an interview with Gore Vidal, who says,'Lennon represented life, Mr Nixon and Mr Bush represent death.' It's doubtful this ang=lewill propel the movie to healthy theatrical grosses, however: Lennon was ma=nythings to many people, but Michael Moore he isn't.

Rather, its best pro=spectswould seem to be TV and/or the DVD market, both in the US and further afield, as a companion to such other past Lennon-rela=tedvideo product as The Beatles Anthol=ogy,John And Yoko's Year Of Peace, =The Dick CavettShow: John Lennon And Yoko Ono and the VHS release of Lennon and Ono asguest hosts on Mike Douglas' talk show. That's where Leaf and Scheinfeld's recent past work - Beautiful Dreamer: Brian Wilson And The Story O=fSmile and Ricky Nelson Sings -has appeared. And VH1 Rock Docs is a producer on this work.

The directors are st=rong atcompiling nostalgic archival footage, such as material from Lennon and Ono'sfamous 1969 Bed-In For Peace in Montreal, which grows more charminglyeccentric and sweet with each passing year.

There also are snipp=ets fromtheir appearance on Douglas' show, a nasty row between a churlish Lennon an=d a New York Times reporter who dares =criticise him, and footage from his appearance at a 1=971 University of Michigan concert to free radicalactivist John Sinclair. (The last, presumably, from Steve Gebhardt'sdocumentary Ten ForTwo, which could use a DVD release.)

The directors also h=aveconducted new interviews with various figures from the time, including Vida=l,Angela Davis, Walter Cronkite and George McGovern.

As explained in the =film byLennon's widow Yoko Ono, his immigration attorney Leon Wildesand others, FBI director J Edgar Hoover and the Nixon White House began try=ingto deport the ex-Beatle back to the UK because they feared he wou=ld bea political threat to Republicans in 1972. The battle to get rid of him wen=t onuntil 1975, into Gerald Ford's presidency, when a court finally supportedLennon's attempt to stay.

The film does hit thesalient points of this struggle, but the directors lack the journalisticbackground to know when what's clear to them isn't so clear to the audience.This writer, for instance, had to go home after the screening and consult goonline to figure out exactly when and on what grounds Lennon won his battle=.

Or if, for that matt=er,President Ford - who met George Harrison in the White House in 1974 - was m=oresympathetic to Lennon than Nixon. To be a first-rate documentary, The US Vs John Lennon really needs= toexplore angles like that. It also needs to explore the motivation and impac=t ofLennon's most political album, 1972's SomeTime In New York City, which it hardly menti=ons.

By the time Lennon w=on hisimmigration battle, he had moved through his radical phase and went five ye=arscompletely out of the public eye. Just days before his and Ono's album Double Fantasy came out, he was mu=rderedon Dec 8, 1980, by unbalanced fan Mark Chapman (something covered in Andrew= Piddington's recent The Killing Of John Lennon). This fi=lmdoesn't address those missing years - nor should it - but it does timidly r=eachfor an improbable connection between Lennon's murder and his politics=. Itis something that should have been left out.

Production companies=
Authorized Pictures
LSL Productions Inc
Lions Gate Films
VH1 Rock Docs

International sales<=br>Lions Gate International

US distribution

Executive Producers<=spanclass=3DGramE>:
Brad Abramson
Kevin L Beggs
Michael Hirschorn
Lauren Lazin
Nicolas Meyer
Erik Nelson
Tom Ortenberg

Terry Castagnola
David Leaf
Peter S Lynch II
Bill Royce
John Scheinfeld
Kristina Wood
Arlene Wszalek

James Mathers

Peter S Lynch

Main cast
John Lennon
Yoko Ono
Walter Cronkite
Angela Davis
George McGovern
Richard Nixon
Bobby Seale
Gore Vidal