Imagine: John Lennon (1988)
Directed by Andrew Solt
Written by Sam Egan & Andrew Solt

When Imagine: John Lennon came out back in '88, it was an impressively candid and appropriately reverent portrait of the much-beloved former Beatle. Featuring tons of previously unseen footage as well as unissued recordings, the film was revelatory on many levels. Perhaps most uncanny was Lennon's own narration, drawn from interviews, which frequently circled around issues of longevity and death. Though it had been eight years since Lennon's murder, the cultural wound still seemed raw, and this movie both picked at the scab and salved it.

Looking at Imagine nowadays is a much more curious experience. Several films released since, including The Beatles Anthology and director Solt's own Gimme Some Truth, have pulled back the curtain even further to provide even more rare footage and deeper insight into Lennon's tortured artistry and complex humanity. So while Imagine has a comfortable "80s documentary" feel to it, the actual content is rather run-of-the-mill at this point. Few people, I'm sure, need to be trotted down Menlove Avenue one more time to visit with Aunt Mimi, Mother Julia, etc, nor does anyone need to saunter into the Cavern Club, Shea Stadium, or even the Dakota Apartment.

Indeed, the film seems much like The Rutles with all the jokes strained out. I found myself smirking reflexively at the standard old newsreel clips I'd seen so many times before, almost like there were jokes to be found in stuff like the KKK burning Beatle records, or even in coverage of Lennon's killing!

Even so, it's a warm and well-intended film, and many of the interviews (including Cynthia Lennon, Yoko Ono, and Sean Lennon, who's wearing what looks like a Rhythm Nation jacket) are very nice to revisit. On the whole, it comes off like a museum-tour film, all PR spin and no real dirt to be found. But I can't say that's altogether a bad thing … just a bit boring if you already know Lennon's life better than your own.

Review by Grover Padilla