Sunday, August 19, 2007

The U.S. vs. John Lennon

The U.S. vs. John Lennon (David Leaf & John Scheinfeld, 2006) [6]

An interesting at times documentary on the Nixon administration's failed attempts to silence and deport John Lennon for his political views and associations. What's interesting more than Lennon the person are the issues being raised of celebrity, using celebrity for voicing dissent, and the role of the U.S. government in monitoring those individuals. Leaf and Scheinfeld interview numerous people, some like Gore Vidal and Noam Chomsky, who have no tangible relation to Lennon. It doesn't work formally because it creates tangents but what they say would be a much more interesting documentary than this one. My main issues here is that this is well covered ground and the filmmakers are bringing nothing that enlightening to Lennon himself. The only real interesting facet that gets revealed but not covered enough is that Lennon's message of peace was extremely naive and that the radicals he associated himself with became more and more confrontational and even violent as the 70s wore on. The film shows that Lennon's power of celebrity was what people like Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman were really after, not so much the ideas. The actual details of Lennon's immigration case are relatively boring but it is interesting to see how paranoid the Nixon administration was in their belief that one entertainer could have that much sway on public opinion. The sad reality, over the years, has become that no famous person (0r group of celebrities) has any real power to influence the political establishment or stop a war. It sure hasn't been successful with Iraq. What this film shows is that John Lennon was really the last entertainer that has had a broad impact on the culture at large but even he never had the influence to make change.

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