(director/writer: David Leaf/John Scheinfeld; cinematographer: James Mathers; editor: Peter S. Lynch II; Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: John Scheinfeld; Lions Gate Films; 2006)

“It’s well worth taking a look at how a fascist-like government operates in America.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The liberal documentary by David Leaf and John Scheinfeld revisits the legal effort by the Nixon Administration to silence and deport John Lennon and Yoko Ono and in so doing explores the Vietnam-era struggle that so bitterly divided the country, and though digging up nothing new nevertheless is certainly relevant for today’s unpopular Iraq war and the animosity caused by the inept and scoundrel-filled Nixon-cloned Bush administration. It was produced by VH1, and features nostalgia for that period in its rock music (including many of Lennon’s songs), its peace demonstrations, its hippy counter-culture movement, in examining the mystique of Lennon, his unusual openness and candor for such a big rock star, and his sharp clownish humor and, lastly, interviews by a number of talking heads–who offer mostly bland comments (the winner of the blandest comments goes hands down to Yoko One, who has absolutely nothing interesting to say). The exception to all the dullness is Gore Vidal, the always lively and sharp-tongued sage acts as the one in the film who best links the fascistic-minded Nixon with the current fascistic-minded Bush as both being on the side of death while convincingly pointing out that Lennon was better than either one because he was their opposite and was on the side of life.

The film zeroes in on the summer of 1971, Lennon’s post-Beatles years, after his song Revolution was released, when he and his Japanese conceptual artist girlfriend, soon to be wife, Yoko Ono, relocated to New York. There they found sanctuary with others to share their strong anti-war feelings from such radical activists as Jerry Rubin and Abie Hoffman, and were recruited to sing at a “John Sinclair Freedom Rally” in Ann Arbor. Two days later, Sinclair—serving already over two years on a 10-year sentence for passing two joints to a female undercover narc—was freed on appeal. We witness Lennon’s honeymoon in bed for a week to demonstrate for peace (called “Bed Peace”) at the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam (where the world media was allowed in the room to film and question him at will), his song of “Give Peace A Chance” becoming the anthem for the peaceniks and how the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover, with the full support of the Nixon White House, abused its power to illegally wiretap him and put him under surveillance.

It’s well worth taking a look at how a fascist-like government operates in America because the phony patriots, Nixon and Bush, might not be the last two such despicable presidents to get elected and try to sabotage the Constitution.

The U.S. vs. John Lennon