January 2, 2014

John Lennon: Love is All You Need

Alan Byron & Ashley Hall, 2010
Alan Byron and Ashley Hall direct this documentary that profiles late Beatle John Lennon. Using archival footage, interviews with close friends and family, the film creates a multi-perspective look at a beloved American icon.

When you are about to watch a documentary on a Beatle, especially Lennon, you are about to click play and you begin to think a few things. Is this going to be a completely biased look at my Johnny Boy? How much Yoko are we going to see? Is it going to be one of those documentaries that didn't get any licensing, so we are going to hear third party accounts at how much the Beatles meant to this complete stranger? Well, good news. This one offers more than that. This one is actually put together quite well, actually. Oh wait! One last question! Am I going to learn anything from this Lennon film that I don't already know? Actually, probably.

It begins with humble beginnings. It details the Fab Four's coming up in the working class Liverpool. You can't blame them for wanting to venture out, break out, see what's out there in the world. That sense of blue-collar British grit certainly gave them some fuel to run off of. It soon jumps to the Beatles arrival in America. Shea Stadium. Beatle Mania. Then comes the controversy of the "the Beatles are bigger than Jesus" statement. It's too bad one quick casual statement had such an impact. Once again it makes you think about the world we're living in today. John Lennon didn't have an iPhone where he could tweet any little thing that happened to cross his mind at a moment's notice. Unfortunately, there was one microphone... and it was front of him. And they took him seriously. Way too seriously. The interviews with the southern American youth reinforce the Puritanical roots that are in this country. Thou shalt not ironically use Baby Jesus' name in public or thou Shalt have thy records burnt! Jump to the death of Brian Epstein, which one could argue changed things quite a bit. He certainly could have been the stitching that kept the Beatles brand held together nicely. Soon after comes the introduction of the divisive Yoko Ono. The filmmakers do not hesitate to play some footage of Camille Paglia expressing her disdain for Mrs. Ono which may please the many Yoko haters of the world watching. You see Lennon's sudden "art phase", in which he clearly gushes over Ono's minimalist, borderline finger paintings on display. Of course with the love blossoming between the two it unfortunately causes the end of the marriage to Cynthia, who on camera could not be more humble and evolved. She comes off as very healthy minded, not harboring any resentment and acknowledging that sometimes couples move on to different things. Soon after the divorce, the Yoko-mania begins. The press stunts. The seemingly inevitable Beatles breakup. The film covers a bit of the 1966 Psychedelia, but soon jumps from that to the very much publicized Yoko/John political statements. The very Nixonian attempt to deport the pair. And of course, the murder. The impact of the murder. It hits the beats you want it to, and gives them fair time.

The film effectively displays Lennon as a very HUMAN figure. And that may be the best quality of this piece. You do actually get a sense of Lennon the person, and not just Lennon the figure. The U.S. vs. John Lennon had more of an emphasis of the political direction that Lennon was taking in his career. But this film covers much more. The film is titled John Lennnon: Love is all you need. But perhaps it was all he needed. While he may be accused of being cynical, cold, unapologetic... Lennon certainly didn't mind speaking his mind. His message, while perhaps naive and idealistic, was still consistent. And look, it lives on. You are constantly reminded of his impact. Lennon could easily be compared to President Kennedy in so many ways. A beloved American figure that certainly didn't mind being in front of the camera. A figure who had some publicized infedility. A figure who was suddenly taken from us, with much effect. A figure who lives on, with the legend having more of an impact. The film leaves you wondering what the world would be like if Lennon were alive today. Would he be a caricature of himself? Would he be dragging himself on tours with various backing bands like Bob Dylan? Would he be in American Idol? Would he be doing interviews on MSNBC protesting the war in Afghanistan? We can only sit and wonder.

No comments:

Post a Comment