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The U.S. vs. John Lennon [Celluloid Hero]

The U.S. vs. John Lennon (2006)


I have always had an interest into why my generation still has such a connection with John Lennon. Lennon died two years before I was born, yet a large percentage of my age group wears Lennon shirts, has posters hanging in their room, listens to the music, cries when they visit Strawberry Fields in Central Park. It’s a strange thing, but I feel that the older I get, the more I appreciate and understand what John Lennon was to the people who actually experienced it firsthand. With that, I also feel more influenced by his views and ideologies.

The story of John Lennon is obviously impossible to extrude from the story of The Beatles, yet this manages to not focus on the group itself. To have included the rise of the band would have just made it another documentary about them, rather than a study on the political and social impact of Lennon alone. It features old news reels alongside home movies from Lennon, and a large number of current interviews.

Despite being produced by VH1, it manages to not feel like a typical “Behind The Music” episode. The interviews are wide-ranging, from anti-establishment icons Paul Krassner and John Sinclair all the way to Nixon accomplice G. Gordon Liddy. The archived footage showed old clips of J. Edgar Hoover and Strom Thurmond attacking Lennon, as well as Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin working with Lennon to start a real revolution.

Liddy was the most prevalent modern interviewee in the “anti-Lennon” camp, and the statements he made brought a combination of laughter and disgust and anger out of me. Part of me just laughed at how sad it was that this old man still spouted out things like how John Lennon was a threat to America, and part of me wanted to reach through the screen and punch him in the throat after hearing him say the students killed at Kent State should’ve known what was going to happen.

A professor I had in college was privileged enough to have worked with Lennon in the late 1970s. He considered Lennon a friend, and also refers to his death as an assassination. Whether or not Lennon’s death was a random crime or a larger conspiracy is a debate for another forum. All that can be said (it may sound cliche, but it’s true) is that even though they may have killed John Lennon, his message is still alive.


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The U.S. vs. John Lennon scores a 8 out of 10  on the Celluloid Hero scale.

[Each week, Varacchi explores cinema from his own perspective. From indie to foreign to mainstream, he’ll watch it all. Suggestions and recommendations are welcome, leave a comment below.]

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