The U.S. vs. John Lennon (3/10)
by Tony Medley
Call me a cock-eyed optimist.
Whenever I go to a documentary, I hope for even-handedness. That was
what I was hoping. But a list of the people interviewed in this
documentary, which is advertised as being the story of former Beatle
John Lennonís efforts to not be deported from the United States shows
how little the filmmakers were interested in equity.
Hereís a partial list of
those who comment in this film:
Get the picture? Virtually
the only person who isnít so far left that they would have been
comfortable in Leninís politburo is G. Gordon Liddy of Watergate infamy.
Liddy was the only person involved with Watergate who stayed true to his
convictions and didnít squeal like a stuck pig, as did John Dean and the
rest of them.
So you canít go into this
film and think youíre going to get a straight story about Lennon and why
the United States wanted to deport him. As near as I can understand, the
legal reason they wanted to deport him because he had a drug conviction
on his record and that would make it contrary to law for him to remain
in the United States, but thatís never made clear in this film.
Unfortunately, the first hour
and 20 minutes of this film is devoted to the opposition to the Vietnam
War, including the Kent State shootings. I guess that the story of
Lennon fighting to stay in the country didnít have enough to it to
justify a full length feature film, so writers-directors-producers David
Leaf and John Scheinfeld padded it with a complete history of opposition
to the Vietnam War.
The result is the near
canonization of Lennon as a secular saint without requiring any
miracles. I was (am) a Beatlemaniac, but Iím no admirer of John Lennon
as a thinker. He had a way with words and melody:
Here come old flattop
He come grooving up slowly
He got Joo Joo eyeball,
He one holy roller
He got hair down to his knee
Got to be a joker.
He just do what he please.
But was he a thinker? He
joined a group of musicians who opposed the Vietnam War. But their
opposition was shallow and one-dimensional. They didnít like the fact
that Americans were dying. That, in itself, didnít set them apart from
virtually every American at the time. What set them apart was that they
apparently didnít give a continental about Vietnamese dying or losing
freedom. None of them ever gave a fig about the fact that when Watergate
resulted in the U.S. losing a war that was won, over 2 million South
Vietnamese were either killed, imprisoned, or went into voluntary exile
in one of the largest mass exoduses in human history.
Lennon never articulates any
thought process that went into his opposition to the war in this film.
We are just told that he was against the war, fought deportation, and is
then awarded his halo as a saint.
Thatís the substance of the
film. Aside from the bias, its weakness is that it is far too long and
very poorly edited. If Leaf and Scheinfeld wanted to really tell the
story of John Lennonís battle to stay in the United States, they could
have done so easily in 90 minutes and could have given both sides of the
Because they spend so much
time setting up what happened during the Vietnam era (does anybody not
know that?) and ignore the reasons the government gave for trying to
deport Lennon, they greatly lessen their impact. That failure converts
this from a documentary into a propagandistic diatribe. Letís face it,
what did Mario Cuomo have to do with John Lennonís deportation?
Obviously, nothing. Cuomo is here because he is an articulate orator who
is passionately leftwing. Scheinfeld confirms his basis as an ideologue
by speaking from what sound like Democrat and Al Qaeda talking points,
tiresomely equating President Bush with President Nixon, calling him a
ďlying president,Ē with ďillegal wiretaps.Ē This alone robs the movie of
whatever verisimilitude it might have had, which wasnít much.
But the worst part of the
film is that it is just boring. I was looking forward to it, even
anticipating its bias, but was greatly disappointed.
August 26, 2006