Cinema Signal:
Gimme Some Truth:
The John Lennon FBI Files

. "The U.S. vs. John Lennon"

There's a deja' vu moment about this documentary. Haven't we seen all this before? Hasn't the subject been considered and reconsidered? Isn't it all but exhausted? I'm not going to tell you that this is a fresh new look and for that, worth doing and presenting. The argument I would make for seeing this film is that it pays to re-address it because so much time has elapsed that the perspective has changed. So have the people who were involved. Put that together with a certain amount of new footage and a smart editorial structure and you have a well made and well-intended look back.

Besides those who play themselves in the archival footage, the band of usual and unusual suspects brought in for on-camera interviews to look back from their particular perspectives is a valuable list. Consider insights from such observers of the period as Carl Bernstein, Noam Chomsky, Walter Cronkite, Mario Cuomo, Angela Davis, John Dean, Ron Kovic, G. Gordon Liddy, George McGovern, Bobby Seale, Tommy Smothers, Gore Vidal and Yoko Ono.

Of all of them, Ono is the main surprise. She's more articulate than I've ever seen her, as though she's abandoned her reasons for holding back now that she's in her mature years and, in the archival footage, better represented than ever as a primary contributant and full confederate in her husband's activist ways. She gives us an inside glimpse of Lennon's thinking, fears and satisfactions. Plus, finally, from this footage I never saw before, I got an idea of what he saw in her in the first place.

Confined to the period of 1966-1976, the film traces the man who used his well-established fame, universal love and inspirational credentials to attempt to be influential on the thoughts of his time, most particularly to the mistakes of the Vietnam morass. The primary dramatic setting is the underlying attacks that bore down on him as the U.S. government, then headed by Richard Nixon, and the FBI, then headed by J. Edgar Hoover, and other political miscreants and operatives fearful of losing the upcoming election, began to get the idea that Lennon's mass of followers might bring them down and put George McGovern into the oval office.

The interviews and clips are assembled well by directors-cowriters David Leaf and John Scheinfeld with good narrative flow. Their new snapshot of the issue will justify a look-see for a curious audience looking for the fuller picture of the events surrounding a most extraordinary artist. And, if you were thinking our times are unsettled.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner 
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John Lennon and Yoko Ono
Anti-war protesters extraordinaire.
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