Customer Review

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I don't harm anybody, I've got a bit of a loud mouth, that's about all", 3 Dec 2011
This review is from: Lennon NYC [Blu-ray] [Region Free] (Blu-ray)
To say that John Lennon was once a member of a successful band is probably one of the biggest understatements you could make, but after the Beatles, Lennon remained part of a cultural revolution through his political activism. But trying to gain permanent citizenship in a country where his voice was seen as a threat to national security was always going to make things tricky...

My teenage years in the '90s were spent discovering the Beatles, and John Lennon was my idol. I read every biography I could find and bought countless documentary videos (most of which were pretty ropey) and now in my thirties I find myself less obsessed but still interested in a man who died the year I was born. This documentary covers the years after the Beatles when John travelled to America. After suffering from constant intrusions into his privacy by the press and hurtful attacks on Yoko Ono - it was only natural that Lennon would love New York City, a place where he could go to shopping without being hassled. Following years of superstardom he finally experienced a sense of normality.

This film details events from the 1970s using interviews with key people from John's life, including some excellent insights from Yoko Ono who is very open and articulate about their time together. I've often thought the unkind comments about Yoko to be unwarranted and here she dispels any preconceptions that she is a cold widower by coming across as warm and direct while speaking fondly of John. It's great to see so many interviews with John himself too, Lennon's music has always been brutally honest, from the desperation of Help! to the public apology of Woman, and his interviews are no different. Listening to his words enables you to really understand the man and realise the thinking behind his political performances. I was already aware that his actions made him a figure of concern for the US government and had heard of the not-so-covert surveillance he was subjected to and attempts to deport him, but Lennon NYC really exposes the full extent of the political paranoia surrounding the threat of unrest attributed to Lennon and the groups he associated with.

Obviously there is a lot of discussion about Lennon's music, and the soundtrack to the film is excellent. There are titbits of information such as his musical technique of purposefully putting his D-string out of tune, behaviour which hails back to being able to point out his guitar to his aunt Mimi when they heard Beatles a track on the radio. The opinions of Lennon's work are favourable but not sycophantically so, the likes of Elton John express their good fortune at being able to work with him and Yoko's involvement on the albums (especially Double Fantasy) isn't dodged.

The interviews are great, but the real magic of this feature is in the studio and demo recordings, many of which I'd never heard before. They perfectly illustrate Lennon's sense of humour and the atmosphere of the recording studio which although tense at times, was now considerably relaxed and without the pressure of producing something which ultimately had to have commercial value. The chaos surrounding John's immigration calmed after a hectic first half to the decade, the latter half of the documentary contains frequent home audio recordings and videos. Within a the space of a day he won his 4 year long battle to remain in America, became a dad again and celebrated his own birthday - now with the security of knowing he could stay in the city he loved, he settled down and became a house-husband and full time dad to young Sean. He quit music to be a "nice daddy", the photos of his time at home are my favourite images of John - as he plays with his son, teaches him to swim, and bakes bread at home, he appears genuinely content, and completely satisfied. There's a brief but great bit of audio where we hear John explain to his son which of the Beatles were performing the songs that Sean is singing along to, in much the same way that I've pointed out which is which to my kids - though I can't claim any vocal or writing credits!

This Blu-Ray disk obviously contains material of differing quality. The interviews look sharp with a great amount of detail, the archive footage is a bit fuzzy at times but the stuff I've seen before has never looked better, and you expect items such as amateur home video to look, well, amateur! Nothing looks poor though and I'm impressed with the amount of footage used to put this together, it looks thoroughly researched and painstakingly put together rather than hastily edited in order to bang yet another John Lennon documentary out on the market. While audio clips are playing (studio recordings, for instance) the screen often shows hand drawn art depicting those you can hear, it looks great. Photographs are grainy and that enhances their look, they capture the moment well and in high definition they look superb. Bonus footage includes interviews about particular subjects, including the story behind Lennon's famous New York City t-shirt photograph, a great story about how using 100 answerphones enabled people to hear his pseudo-banned song "woman in the ni* *er of the world", and also thoughts on Lennon's death which are extended versions of the section in the main documentary.

In a nutshell: A great documentary doesn't necessarily have to be completely objective, but it does have to be honest with the way it dissects the subject and not be guilty of glossing over the negative aspects - John Lennon NYC is a well-balanced film which is impressively assembled and tells the story of his New York years using plenty of never-before-seen material. It's a fascinating documentary and one of the best John Lennon features I've seen, this has been overshadowed by Scorsese's George Harrison - Living in the Material World but this is probably more in-depth and just as worthy a watch.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 12 Dec 2011 05:57:06 GMT
S Riaz says:
Great review. I recently read Elvis meets the Beatles, which may be somewhat exaggerated, but I had no idea that Elvis was so involved in trying to get Lennon deported from the USA.

Posted on 31 Dec 2011 10:09:33 GMT
Last edited by the author on 31 Dec 2011 10:10:27 GMT
Davie says:
A very helpful review. Its in-depth assessment and the esteemed calibre of people taking part in the production has helped me decide to obtain the dvd. Thank you.
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