From Dec. 5, 2010 — If you missed the airing of “LENNONYC” on the PBS series “American Masters” you can catch up with it on DVD via A&E Home Entertainment.
As usual with Susan Lacy’s long-running series, the Lennon documentary is way above average, examining one specific period in the musician’s life rather than trying to cover his whole career. And, of course, the “American Masters” label wouldn’t apply to Lennon’s years back home in England with The Beatles.
The film shows us how the artist and his controversial wife, Yoko Ono, escaped the madness of Beatlemania in England — and the press obsession with Ono as the destroyer of The Beatles — to make a new life in New York City in the early 1970s.
Although Lennon remained a high profile figure wherever he went, New York in the turbulent 1970s provided him with the ability to lead a fairly “normal” day to day life away from the intense tabloid press coverage in his native land. The documentary shows Lennon as another of the millions of talented foreigners who have helped to make New York City the center of American cultural life.
“LENNONYC” mixes strong interview segments with archival footage of Lennon in New York, including large samples of the political/musical events he took part in.
Yoko Ono “supported” the film but doesn’t appear to have tried to whitewash her late husband. We get a full accounting of Lennon’s famous “lost weekend” period, when he ran off to Los Angeles for a hedonistic escape from his marriage (with May Pang).
Ono tells us that she wanted Pang to go to L.A. with her husband so that he wouldn’t become completely unhinged there. Apparently, the brilliant musician always needed a strong woman to guide him through day to day responsibilities.
Lennon came back to the city for one of the most productive periods of his career. Of course, there is an unintentional pall cast over the second half of the two-hour film because we know that the tight creative and personal bond between Lennon and Ono will be destroyed at the end of 1980.