Monday, February 19, 2007

DVD review: THE U.S. vs. JOHN LENNON

The title The U.S. vs. John Lennon does a bit of a disservice to this documentary by David Leaf and John Scheinfeld. Its scope is much broader than the immigration challenges of John and Yoko Lennon during the Nixon years; in fact, their INS woes fill only 15 to 20 minutes. What the filmmakers have produced is a stirring portrait of the New Left and the antiwar movement of the late 1960s and early ’70s told through the political activism of the Lennons. Using archival footage (much of which I’d never seen before, and I thought I’d seen it all) and recent interviews with everyone from Geraldo Rivera to Ron Kovic, from Noam Chomsky to Angela Davis, from John Sinclair to Gore Vidal, from G. Gordon Liddy to George McGovern, a story is beautifully spun from the Lennons’ years in New York City, when they built relationships with radical leaders, headlined benefit concerts, and consistently pushed the peace message. I think those moments when the film touches on radical strategy and tactics offer valuable insight for today’s young activists. (There is some very good bonus material on the DVD illustrating important parallels between the Nixon and Bush eras.)

Some viewers might fault the movie for its wart-free portrayal of John, and that’s probably a fair criticism. But the film doesn’t pretend to be a thorough biography of John and Yoko. Rather, its purpose is to present a satisfying, if not overly detailed, record of a difficult period of political struggle. There are lessons to be learned from The U.S. vs. John Lennon. And Leaf and Scheinfeld do a fine job of offering those lessons clearly and entertainingly. I highly recommend this DVD.


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