BABY YOU CAN BURN MY FLAG

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - Don­ald Clarke

THE US VS JOHN LEN­NON ★★★ Di­rected by David Leaf, John Sche­in­feld PG cert, Cork Om­ni­plex; Cineworld/Screen, Dublin, 96 min

THE ti­tle of this divert­ing, if un­sur­pris­ing, VH1 doc­u­men­tary prom­ises the viewer ghastly rev­e­la­tions con­cern­ing the United States gov­ern­ment’s covert cam­paign against the most po­lit­i­cal of The Bea­tles.

Well, we cer­tainly hear a great deal about John Len­non vs the US (or, rather, its then lead­ers) in the film. He makes friends with the Black Pan­thers. He cam­paigns for the re­lease of the jailed rad­i­cal John Sin­clair. He falls un­der the spell of Ab­bie Hoff­man and Jerry Ru­bin. But any­body familiar with the es­capades in po­lit­i­cal hooli­gan­ism car­ried out by the Nixon ad­min­is­tra­tion and its bul­let-headed goons will hardly feel the need to raise an eye­brow at the mod­est in­con­ve­niences re­port­edly vis­ited on Len­non. His phone may have been bugged. Men in coats were spot­ted lurk­ing op­po­site his build­ing. An ul­ti­mately in­ef­fec­tive at­tempt was made to have him de­ported. Boo hoo! Tell that to the fam­i­lies of kids shot down at Kent State for protest­ing the Viet­nam war.

Any­way. The US vs John Len­non, de­spite its disin­gen­u­ous ti­tle, re­mains an en­ter­tain­ing, slickly pro­duced com­pi­la­tion of talk­ing heads. The clips of its sub­ject var­i­ously re­veal Len­non as witty, vain, car­ing, ar­ro­gant, naive and com­bat­ive. Mean­while, his op­po­nents still seem as wor­ry­ingly dis­en­gaged from re­al­ity as ever. G Gor­don Liddy, Nixon’s most en­thu­si­as­tic hench­man, has great fun vig­or­ously demon­strat­ing his lack of re­pen­tance. The best line is, how­ever, de­liv­ered by that peren­ni­ally waspish lib­eral Gore Vi­dal.

“John Len­non was a born en­emy of those who gov­ern the United States,” the el­derly wit opines. “So I just say he rep­re­sented life and is ad­mirable. And Mr Nixon and Mr Bush rep­re­sent death and that is a bad thing.”

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