Gimme Some Truth: The Making of John Lennon's Imagine Album (2000)
Directed by Andrew Solt

I enjoyed this documentary a good deal more than I expected to, especially given that I bought the DVD almost more out of spite than anything else. My contentious relationship with John Lennon has gone through many phases: I've admired him, vilified him, embraced him, written him off, and ultimately come to the conclusion that no matter what I feel at the moment, I always need to know more.

Lennon's life and music are inspiring for a lot of reasons, though in recent years that inspiration for me has been more along the lines of being inspired to trash his legend. Yes, the man made some incredible music over the years, and certainly some brave choices with his life and art, but he was also, by all accounts, a complete asshole and, for most of his career, a pretty callow artist. I've harangued many a person at many a party with the postulate that Yoko Ono was by far the better artist, and that everything good Lennon did after he met her was simply Ono-lite.

This film, culled mostly from the intimate and surprisingly relaxed recording sessions for Imagine, reinforces that idea, though it also makes very plain that Yoko's not an easy person to like. As much as I support her in theory (and I do genuinely love her music), I'm not sure I could be around her for more than five minutes without wanting to throttle the life out of her.

Most revealing, though, is a sequence where you see her stalking the studio during a rehearsal, going around to each musician giving direction on how to play … and turning a rather contented bluesy jam into a tight, dynamic, and explosive arrangement. Everyone (viewer included) is visibly annoyed, but she gets the sound. Shrill and aggressive as she may be, she's right on.

Other notable scenes include a visit from George Harrison; footage of Lennon and Phil Spector trying to nail some vocal harmonies; and a positively spellbinding sequence in which a spiritually confused fan makes his way onto the Lennon estate, only to be dealt with by Lennon with his most "Hey, I'm just a guy, not a God" rhetoric. That Lennon was gunned down by a deranged fan is impossible to avoid watching this scene, and I came away with much more sympathy for the man than I've ever had before. Because, flawed though he was, it could not have been easy to be "John Lennon" the icon as well as John Lennon the man.

I also came away with renewed inspiration in the Imagine album. The film reveals the sessions as something concrete, with none of the mythologizing you'd expect. A very cool film all around.

Review by La Fée