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The US Vs. John Lennon (2006) August 7, 2008

Filed under: Film Reviews — aloysia @ 12:40 am

“John Lennon was a born enemy of those who control the United States, which I always say was admirable. Lennon came to represent life, while Mr. Nixon… and Mr. Bush… represent death.”

– Gore Vidal.

Thousands point and shout while history repeats itself and those in power turn a blind eye. Lennon once said that those in power were ‘insane’, perhaps not insane so much as hopelessly selfish and overcome with power. In The US vs. John Lennon, those interviewed make direct connections between the Nixon and Bush administrations: namely the sense of paranoia which had/has infused both reigns. It seems now that there is nothing to believe in, the injustice the Iraq war has been shuffled to the back of the line and that paranoia has dimmed as the focus of the nation rests in their own backyards with a failing economy and the threat of recession.

John Lennon brought to America a very simple messege. It is easy to pressume that his messege was too naive, too easy, to ever become a reality; but therin lies the brilliance. People want things to be simple and easy to understand. Because a messege is simple does not mean it is worthless. Lennon brought nothing but good tidings when he arrived in the US but threat of change implies threat to those in power. As a result of his celebrity, Lennon had great power at his disposal, but not so much as the paranoid Nixon administration chose to assign him. He became a pariah, a national threat, in the eyes of the president. A man secure in his power and influence is not so threatened by a rock star. Nixon knew that people were on edge and that his administration was out of style. This is what the film details. The FBI bugged Lennon’s phone, followed him, attended his concerts and wrote down the lyrics of his songs; trying to collect enough information and enough proof that he was a threat and must be removed from the country before all hell broke loose.

It is in this day and age that a documentary such as this has resonance. Made ten years ago, the message would have been largely ignored by a country secure in its wealth and status. Now, allows a glimpse into the mistakes made by the American government, mistakes made not once but over and over to the detriment of its populace. Few people believe in anything anymore, it is an age of apathy and escape. The Us Vs. John Lennon seems to ask its viewers to see the world, not look past it and to their televisions or computer screens. Lennon’s messege is not out of date, it is more relevent than ever and always has been.

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I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (1977) August 3, 2008

The most remarkable thing about I Never Promised You a Rose Garden is its fearless portrayal of the mentally ill. Unlike other films dealing with similar subject matter, the characters are not merely caricatures meant to amuse. They are confusing and frightening people, especially for Deborah (Kathleen Quinlan), a young girl with schizophrenia, who is the main focus of the film. Deborah oscillates between the world of the sane and that of the insane; often unable to control her reactions or understand how to word her responses when confronted with something difficult. Her inner world is nearly as frightening as the asylum she inhabits. She creates her own language and race of people who make it their mission to control and manipulate her, constantly accusing her of ‘betraying them’ and warning her that she will be punished if she persists in the betrayal. Her supposed betrayal takes the form of psychotherapy with the kind Dr. Freed (Bibi Anderson).

Deborah longs to experience reality the way others do but is, at the same time, terrified of abandoning her tortuous inner world; she tries to find people who she believes could teach and understand her, the way Dr. Freed does. She meets a patient named Mrs. Coral, who she is told, taught geometry. She soon realises that she will find no one in the asylum, that they are just as trapped and clueless as she is. The hopeless confusion around her forces her to let go of her tormentors and to live in reality. Perhaps the conclusion is too sunny to be realistic but the obstacles on the road make it more acceptable. There is nothing easy about this film, it invokes all the terrors of schizophrenia, never leading the audience to believe in anything but the horror of what Deborah and the people around her experience.