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Imagine: John Lennon (1988)

by on 2010/12/08

“I’m singing about me and my life, you know? And if it’s relevant for other people’s lives, that’s all right.”

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Today marks the anniversary of the death of John Lennon, and I would feel remiss not to acknowledge the occasion.  In recent days there have been numerous tributes to his life and legend, all celebrating his considerable contributions to pop culture, art, and activism.  His body of work stands as exceptional thirty years along, and seems likely to remain that way into the foreseeable future.  But in all I’ve come across, I have yet to find mention of the one tragic quality that originally endeared him to me:  his vulnerability.

It’s fair to say that — while I was exposed to their music from a very young age — I knew less about The Beatles than I did about Lennon on his own.  Working part-time in the high school library, I came across an Imagine CD in the media stacks.  It’s hard to believe it now but, at the time, I was happy to try something new for the novelty of the medium itself.  I wound up enjoying the music enough that, when pay TV channels began to advertise a forthcoming movie sharing the disc’s title, I tuned in, turned on, and never went back.

Imagine: John Lennon is a biographical documentary assembled from stills, films, and videos spanning forty years of life.  It intersperses its tale with new and vintage interviews, musical performances, both with and without the Beatles, using archival recordings of Lennon himself to serve as the narration.  Anyone who has seen the The Compleat Beatles or The Beatles Anthology series will be familiar with the Sixties footage.  The Seventies, however, yields the greatest revelations, a wealth of distilled glimpses into the many lives of Lennon . . . practicing at home, recording in the studio, performing live, or simply sharing everyday life (or at least its most interesting bits).

As compelling as the tale being told, as inspiring as the music throughout, is that appealing vulnerability.  To be sure, it’s no work of pure flattery.  But John’s drunken antics, rancour, and philandering deepen the shallows of myth in a strangely appealing way.  Yes, he could be a genius, a showman, and an icon, but he could just as well be like the rest of us, and I somehow felt reassured by that fact.

Thirty years after his passing, and more than twenty after I discovered him for myself, Imagine: John Lennon still does a great job of educating, entertaining, and even inspiring.  And if its portrayal of the man is accurate at all, I believe John himself might wonder what all of the fuss is about.  Imagine that.

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Please note:  This review is a placeholder “stub” intended for future revision.

Rated R for adult situations, language, and nudity

106 minutes

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