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"Lennon Naked"
Reviewer:
Wayne Klein
Studio: BBC-/Warner
Genre:
Documentary
Release Date:
12/8/10
Special Features:

None

Review:

MAccording to the band Blondie we should all "die young, stay pretty". The advantage is, of course, you become an icon stuck in time never aging or changing. The problem with those who die young is that they are forever trapped in the past almost like a fossil; they never age and their reputation remains intact but it also creates unrealistic expectations for those left behind in their wake particularly in situations where an artist has collaborated with others. In the case of The Beatles Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were often overshadowed by John Lennon's legend. The man was subtracted from the myth when he was assassinated and, suddenly, Lennon who had feet made of clay like every other musical celebrity was seen as a bronzed figure without fault. ***

Lennon would be the first to admit his faults as he often did with uncharacteristic candor and would admit when he thought his music was crap and when he thought it was great as well. He was just as unforgiving of his former collaborator Paul McCartney and even harder on George Harrison often dismissing George's religious infused music during interviews even though he managed to have a somewhat stable relationship with George and Ringo after the bitter, nasty "divorce" of The Beatles. ***

When Lennon moved to New York City it was another part of his evolution as an artist. Ironically as Dylan became less overtly political in his music (although it was still there just expressed with subtly), Lennon moved towards becoming more explicitly political to the point that his music on at least one album ("Sometime in New York City") degenerated into a series of trite political slogans backed by second rate songs often sloppy backing by Elephant's Memory which Lennon had signed to Apple Records. After the one-two punch of "Plastic Ono Band" and "Imagine" both of which had strong material and reshaped Lennon's career as a musician distinguishing it from The Beatles, Lennon flayed around looking for motivation and inspiration during a very difficult time in his life when his radical posturing helped put him on Richard Nixon's "Enemy's List" and he faced deportment, wiretapping/spying by the FBI and criticism from Beatle fans in his new adopted home. While not perfect "Lennon NYC" does give us an idea as to what motivated Lennon to make the move from England to the U.S. but we're given little idea beyond the usual cliches as to what motivates Lennon in the BBC TV film "Lennon Naked". ***

"Lennon Naked" focuses on the years that just prior to Lennon's departure from England but it was still a difficult and turbulent time for John. Starring Christopher Eccleston ("Doctor Who", "28 Days Later"), "Lennon Naked" focuses on John's relationship with his absent father "Freddie Lennon (Christopher Fairbank) who went to sea shortly after Lennon's birth and didn't turn up in John's life again until the success of The Beatles. This absence affected Lennon in unusual ways--he was always looking for father (and mother) figures in his life often shifting in the wind and being carried into new beliefs without fully exploring them just dabbling enough to make some of the hurt of NOT having his father in his life go away. Focusing on the years prior to Lennon leaving The Beatles, his relationship with often turbulent relationship with Freddie whom John felt came back into his life because he had become famous, "Lennon Naked" portrays John during a period of time when he was at the height of his artistic power but also not always the most pleasant person to be around. Although Eccleston is too old at this stage to play a 24 year old Lennon when the film opens (Eccleston is 45), he looks the part and certainly pulls off but the script strands Eccleston by making Lennon very much a one-dimesional part; we see the anger and wit of John Lennon but little of the maverick creative individual who also could be a lot of fun (according to those around him) to hang out with. Written by Robert Jones ("The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency") and directed by Edmund Couldthard portays Lennon as a cold hearted bastard much of the time and the script doesn't give Eccleston much wiggle room when it comes to showing us how charming Lennon could be. The film jumps through time randomly almost as if we're watching without giving us much in the way of context for Lennon's behavior. ---

Image & Sound: "Lennon Naked" looks decent enough in its DVD debut. This isn't a film that will look all that great when and if Blu-ray comes out. Detail is decent and colors are solid throughout. The sound is quite nice as well although directional effects are minimal.

Special Features:

None

Final Words:

"Lennon Naked" doesn't give us a full picture of John Lennon but contributes to the other extreme elements of his myth. John Lennon comes across as less than pleasant and less than human in this TV special. Although Eccleston does a good job with the material he is given he fails to bring Lennon alive in this program and everyone else portrayed in the film are little more than cypher or stick figures designed to move the action forward. ***

Although flawed, "Lennon Naked" doesn't give us "Saint Lennon" who arrived in the wake of his murder in 1980 nor is Yoko allowed to step in and sanitize Lennon's behavior/beliefs, etc. as she has over the 30 years since Lennon's death.

 

 
 
 
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