Few musicians have given it their absolute all to music. Regardless of how you feel about John Lennon and The Beatles, you can’t underestimate how influential his work has been for so many. If it weren’t for him, then we wouldn’t have Oasis, which, actually, would’ve made the world a better place. In his only feature documentary, director Andrew Solt pieces Imagine: John Lennon together through hundreds of hours of interview footage, homemade content, and concert footage. His aim of giving a profile to one of the great beacons of rock music is an admirable effort, and a huge undertaking for any director.
With such a plethora of footage, the film has much to work with, and not enough time to show it. The selected footage on display here is marvellous. We’re thrown right into the recording studio attached to his home, the recording of his albums, and. Documentaries that rely solely on footage already recorded can go either way. It can be a wholly rewarding experience that shed light on sorrowful moments, the eclectic highs of being in the world’s most influential rock band, and the lows of fallout that followed. On the other hand, it could’ve been a self-congratulatory tribute, running through Lennon’s career as a solo artist and making him out to be the messiah of music. Thankfully the former is found with Imagine: John Lennon.
We get to grips with Lennon’s childhood, his surprisingly harsh upbringing, and the cliché of rock and roll changing his life. He lived that cliché, though, and did amazing artistic productions with that talent. Taking us through the life of such a prolific artist is no small feat, but we go back and forth from Beatlemania to his solo career, discussing the highs and lows of his later career. Collaborating with the likes of Elton John and David Bowie, the high amount of publicity he often received, and how the press hounded him for years, it all comes together through some nicely curated footage. His relationship with Yoko Ono will prove interesting for those interested in her impact on the split-up of The Beatles, but Solt’s direction brings about a rather positive light. We’re given Lennon in a completely unguarded life, his brief retirement to family life, and the eventual tragedy of his murder.
Taking John Lennon in his own words relies on how much our audience trust him to detail his own narrative. Imagine: John Lennon is a certainly interesting documentary; it sheds light on his life through interviews taken long before his passing. Essential viewing for even the most fleeting Beatles or Lennon fan, Imagine: John Lennon can pride itself on being a documentary that picks out the most important moments from swathes of footage. It crafts a narrative that has no trouble being consistent and engaging, with a few little bits and pieces that showcase a different side to the Lennon many saw in the public view.