"I am an artist first, a politician second," states John Lennon, in compelling and sometimes bemusing archive footage, threaded through The US Vs John Lennon. It's the niggling ambiguities in the former Beatle's perception of himself that draw you into this documentary by co-helmers David Leaf and John Scheinfeld. Even so, they steer focus on reactions to Lennon's political activism in the 70s; most notably attempts by the Nixon administration to "silence" this A-List peacenik.
Lennon is held up as a beacon for Freedom of Speech, and it seems the barmier the speech, the better. Yoko Ono is among the interviewees who reveal that Lennon wanted his voice heard around the world. Wacky stunts, like the famous 'bed in' or giving a press conference wrapped in a paper bag ("bagism") are explained as ingenuous schemes to achieve that end, but questions about Lennon's egomaniacal tendencies are too quickly brushed aside.
"STRIKES A CHORD WITH 9/11"
Occasionally, he comes across as naive, but watching vintage reels, there's no doubting Lennon's charm and influence. Candid interviews with former Nixon aides, FBI agents and glimpses of declassified government files, bolster Lennon's claim that he was the victim of "harassment". But the accounts don't just lionise the musician, they also betray a vicious cycle of paranoia kept turning by The White House. Parallels with the post-9/11 climate - if only implied - inevitably strike a chord. And so too does Lennon's vast catalogue of music. If anything this film proves that song can have more impact than a little toe tapping and tub-thumping.