BABY YOU CAN BURN MY FLAG
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.”