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

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Released 17-Oct-2007

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Trailer-Leonard Coen: I'm Your Man; FUR; Oceans Thirteen
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Menu Audio
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2006
Running Time 95:18 (Case: 94)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By David Leaf
John Scheinfeld
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring John Lennon
Yoko Ono
Walter Cronkite
Mario Cuomo
Gore Vidal
John Dean
Ron Kovic
G. Gordon Liddy
George McGovern
Bobby Seale
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music John Lennon
Paul McCartney
Yoko Ono Lennon


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Varies Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    U2 vocalist Bono once claimed that "fame is a currency, and I intend to spend mine wisely", but the words could have just as easily come from John Lennon decades earlier. Rather than stand on a street corner distributing leaflets about his beliefs, Lennon used the media's unyielding fascination with most aspects of his life to draw attention to global issues. This stance didn't come without its drawbacks, however. Dissect the lyrics from any of Lennon's more irate musical output, and it is no surprise the FBI had 'an interest' in him. Over the course of several years Lennon evolved from an outspoken musician to what the then-government perceived as a threat to national security, and tried very hard to have deported. This documentary goes some way to examining what forces made Lennon the way he was, as well as what events inspired him to act in the way he did.

    The doco begins with a short glimpse into his childhood and upbringing, through to his tenure with The Beatles. The first half essentially attempts to show the trajectory he was set upon from an early age through to the mid 60s, his troubles in school and his dyed-in-the-wool rebellious nature. From there, the flow swiftly moves to his relationship with Yoko, their marriage and infamous bed-in Amsterdam honeymoon that was devoured by the global media. Surprise, surprise, Yoko happily takes credit for unleashing John's outspoken nature from the closet. As with most Lennon-related material of late, it would seem his first marriage to Cynthia and the birth of Julian are being further erased from history.

    The real juicy revelations come from the opening of the FBI's Lennon file, uncovering "improper influence" from above in the immigration department's effort to have him deported. The file proves this meddling to have come from as high-up as then-President Richard Nixon and FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover. What possible threat could Lennon have been to two of the most powerful men in the free world? This is the question the documentary aims to answer.

    A vast, contrasting array of interviewees have been assembled from the era, culminating in a cross-section of writers, journalists, senators, FBI agents and activists that each have their say about the climate at the time and Lennon's profound influence.

    We should remember that this piece was made for television. It is very well put together, heavily punctuated by The Beatles and Lennon's music, and in it's early scenes does cover some ground that was touched upon in the Beatles Anthology, such as Lennon's flippant remark about The Beatles being more popular than Jesus. There are some fantastic snippets of Lennon's intimate home movies to be found, but ultimately this film falls short of being an entirely effective biopic. Having said that, it does succeed as an interesting snapshot of the era, revealing themes that resonate particularly well in today's climate.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This documentary was made for cable television and is presented here in its intended 1.78:1 aspect ratio, tight to frame on all sides. The film's appearance is only limited by its sources, which range from interlaced archive analogue tape to heavily artefacted monochrome film stock. These are not to the detriment of the presentation, rather it reaffirms the era in which the events are placed.

    Interview footage captured more recently is absolutely crystal clear. Colours are rich and vibrant, with not a hint of bleeding or posterisation to be seen. Low level noise is also absent.

    MPEG compression artefacting is nowhere to be seen. No film artefacts have been introduced that were not already present in the archival footage.

    An English subtitle stream for the Hard of Hearing is included and accurately transcribes all of the necessary interview dialogue, narration and song lyrics.

    This disc is DVD5 formatted.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are two soundtracks accompanying this documentary film on DVD. The default soundtrack is Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s), which is partnered by a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo (224Kb/s) equivalent. There is not a lot to separate the two.

    The dialogue remains clear and easy to discern despite the vast array of different sources that have been utilised. Audio sync seems to vary from one scene to the next, specifically some interview segments seem to be poorly synched to the video. These are few and not overly obtrusive.

    The default soundtrack doesn't seem to utilise the surround speakers at all. The mix is entirely frontal and not all that dissimilar to the stereo alternative.

    A large range of Beatles and solo Lennon compositions pepper the film from beginning to end. A couple are scene-relevant, but they all suit the atmosphere of the documentary perfectly.

    Like the surround channels, the subwoofer isn't given a lot of work to do, nor is it missed in my opinion.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Nothing of note, I'm sorry to say.

Menu

    The menu pages contain fragments of Lennon's music, while the main menu is nicely animated. There are options for Scene Selection and Setup.

Trailers (3)

    A couple of trailers precede the loading of the main menu (listed in detail at the top of this page). All may be skipped manually.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 release contains the following extra features:

    The additional scenes seem to cover a bit of ground not touched upon in the feature (such as the Two Virgins album cover), and would be interesting to see. If you're a fan of the film, the Region 1 looks like the way to go.

Summary

    The US vs. John Lennon is a worthwhile glimpse at a fragile period in history. The bulk of this material will not be revelatory to fans of the Beatles or those who experienced the Vietnam war, but there are a few intimate passages of Lennon's home movies I had not seen before. These alone make the piece worth a rent at the very least.

    The transfer is great.

    The extras are available in Region 1, not locally.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-3910, using HDMI output
DisplaySanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector, Screen Technics Cinemasnap 96" (16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-3806 (7.1 Channels)
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora III floor-standing Mains and Surrounds. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Center. Mirage 10 inch powered sub.

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