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The U.S. vs. John Lennon (2006).

September 4, 2007

The Scoop:
This wonderful documentary from David Leaf and John Scheinfeld is a must-see. It does more than just detail the FBI’s campaign to discredit and deport John Lennon and Yoko Ono in the early ’70s; it also examines the issues and personalities of the antiwar movement, displays the horrors of the Vietnam War and gives a loving portrayal of John and Yoko’s marriage.

Lennon coupled his intelligence and principle with the pop smarts he learned from the Beatles to propel himself to the front of the antiwar movement and into the orbit of the likes of Bobby Seale, Abbie Hoffman, Ron Kovic and Angela Davis. Along the way he made powerful enemies both in J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI and Richard Nixon’s White House.

The film presents in-depth interviews with Ono (of course), Seale, Davis, Gore Vidal, G. Gordon Liddy, John Dean, Walter Cronkite, Geraldo Rivera and a host of others. With these, Leaf and Scheinfeld make liberal use of archival interviews with Lennon, especially John and Yoko’s appearances on “The Dick Cavett Show”, and Lennon’s own music.

What emerges is a powerful depiction of a celebrity willing to risk everything to use his fame and influence to try to affect positive change on the world — as well as the lengths corrupt powerholders will go to protect their own selfish interests and stifle dissent. It’s a prescient message for today, as we still await an artist capable of making the same stand.

Best Line:
“Mr. Lennon came to represent life and was admirable. Mr. Nixon and Mr. Bush represent death.” — Gore Vidal

Side Note:
Among the celebrities singing on “Give Peace a Chance” (recorded at John and Yoko’s Bed-In in Montreal in 1969) were Tommy Smothers, Timothy Leary, Petula Clark, Allen Ginsberg and Dick Gregory.

Companion Viewing:
“Imagine: John Lennon” (1988) and “The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons From the Life of Robert S. McNamara” (2003).

Official Site.
Cinematic Intelligence Agency.

Take a Look:
The trailer that makes it look almost like a Hollywood thriller:

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