​Ballad for other people's love. Review of Lennon and Ono’s film "Imagine"

1972’s film "Imagine", whose screening sessions, were timed with John Lennon’s birthday, took place in Ukraine on October 9, 11, and 13, left very mixed impressions after watching.

Unlike the more famous 1988 documentary "Imagine: John Lennon", which reveals interesting details from the biography and creativity of the musician, the earlier 1972’s picture pays much more attention to his personal life, namely, the relations with his second wife Yoko Ono.

In spite of the fact that the film was promoted by its creators as "the ground-breaking music film directed by John & Yoko", judging by its semantic content, it looks like ordinary home footage, which (because of some scenes of nudity of Ono and Lennon) sometimes is rather awkward to watch. There is no plot as such, and the series of shown events (singing during the Bed-In For Peace action, parties with Andy Warhol, etc.) implies that the viewer is already well acquainted with the main characters of the film and their surroundings. Going to the screening session, I expected to see something more like a semi-documentary, accompanied by the songs of Lennon and his wife, or at least a kind of musical film about the star couple and their joint work. In fact, "Imagine" is a personal chronicle from the archive of one family, which, if you forget about all the merits of Lennon, will only be of interest to this very couple and their family. Yes, sometimes at random intervals one can see some famous people, Great Britain and America in the 1970s... However, most of the attention is paid to very strange scenes involving John and his muse, where everything that happens was filmed only for some claim to originality and "otherness".

Read also: Short review of The Doors "Live at the Hollywood Bowl" concert movie

The movie was heavily promoted based around its musical content and how the album "Imagine" was created, in reality the movie is anything but. Of course, the beginning of the film, repeating scenes from the famous video clip "Imagine", is just great, and precisely because of it one is given the erroneous and positive impression that all of the film will look like one big non-stop music video. All musical inserts with Lennon's songs, his recordings at the studio and guitar playings are also delightful. Everything related to Yoko, including her solo singing (her howls to trance sounding music were perceived more or less positive unlike her clean vocals), her quite awkward singing to her husband, on the contrary, incredibly delayed the process of enjoying the film and made me check the time on my watch every second. Honestly, I was never particularly interested in the work of Ono and this film did not spur me on to discover it in more detail. The only part that I appreciated from Yoko’s songs used in "Imagine", were the music from Yoko's solo album "Fly", and yes, my guess later came true, Lennon, Clapton and other equally talented musicians turned out to be its authors and performers.

Nevertheless, listening to this clumsy wheeze that cannot hold a tune, who sometimes devolves into screeching like an injured mouse, you understand how much Lennon loved this woman and was ready (apparently), to listen to such a performance for hours on end with undisguised delight. It seems to me that the film is perfect for background playback during some thematic party, but, personally, I’m not ready to invest time rewatching it trying to discover some hidden and earth-shattering message... if there is any! I'm not sure that "Imagine" deserves the attention other than die-hard Beatles’ fan who is obsessed with everything that is somehow related to the band. For everyone else, I would recommend watching the documentary "Imagine: John Lennon", where you can also get acquainted with the process of recording the legendary album, see its creator while working at the studio and really feel the talent and the greatness of his personality.

Reviewed by Anastezia G.
Noizr thanks KyivMusicFilm for accreditation