Dirs: David Leaf/John Scheinfeld.US. 2006. 99mins.
Despite its provocativetitle, David Leaf and John Scheinfeld's documentary The US Vs John Lennon is as much a friendly portrait of the lateBeatle as political activist as an expose of early 1970s White House efforts todeport him for that activism. But it fails to clearly delineate when Lennonaffected his times politically as opposed to when he was just responding tothem. As a result, the feature undercuts the drama in Lennon's immigrationstruggle to stay in the
Rather, its best prospectswould seem to be TV and/or the DVD market, both in the US and further afield, as a companion to such other past Lennon-relatedvideo product as The Beatles Anthology,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 OfSmile and Ricky Nelson Sings -has appeared. And VH1 Rock Docs is a producer on this work.
The directors are strong atcompiling nostalgic archival footage, such as material from Lennon and Ono'sfamous 1969 Bed-In For Peace in
There also are snippets fromtheir appearance on Douglas' show, a nasty row between a churlish Lennon and a New York Times reporter who dares criticise him, and footage from his appearance at a 1971
The directors also haveconducted new interviews with various figures from the time, including Vidal,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 tryingto deport the ex-Beatle back to the
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 matter,President Ford - who met George Harrison in the White House in 1974 - was moresympathetic 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 impact ofLennon's most political album, 1972's SomeTime In New York City, which it hardly mentions.
By the time Lennon won hisimmigration battle, he had moved through his radical phase and went five yearscompletely out of the public eye. Just days before his and Ono's album Double Fantasy came out, he was murderedon Dec 8, 1980, by unbalanced fan Mark Chapman (something covered in Andrew Piddington's recent TheKilling Of John Lennon). This film doesn't addressthose missing years - nor should it - but it does timidly reach for animprobable connection between Lennon's murder and his politics. It is somethingthat should have been left out.
LSL Productions Inc
Lions Gate Films
VH1 Rock Docs
Lions Gate International
Kevin L Beggs
Peter S Lynch II
Peter S Lynch