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John Lennon: Give Peace A Song
featuring: John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Eric Clapton, Sean Lennon, and Petula Clark

director: Paul McGrath

45 minutes (E) 2006
widescreen ratio 16:9
Fabulous DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by James A Stewart
It is May 1969. American troops are being killed in Vietnam and, at home, the country is on the brink of a race war. Meanwhile, Biafra is witnessing genocide on a grand scale, the likes of which hadn't been seen since Hitler's heyday. Nuclear bombs are all the rage for the superpowers, and there is trouble brewing in the Middle East. So what does John Lennon, working-class hero and unyielding pacifist, do? He stages a 'bed-in for peace' at room 1742 in the Queen Elizabeth hotel, Montreal.

With all the hallmarks of a VH1 behind the music rockumentary, Give Peace A Song is an interesting review of the event, but sadly not fascinating. It is often said that Lennon, and Yoko Ono were naive or sycophantic in their views, but the way they set about publicising them in this short documentary really does show a consistency in their calls for peace, likening the peace movement to early Beatles and with Lennon saying he wanted to take "Ghandi's way" to resolving conflict around the world.

Throughout, the pride of the Canadian involvement in the bed-in is apparent, culminating in their part in the recording of the iconic peace anthem Give Peace A Chance. The chaos and spontaneity of the recording of this song in room 1742 is something that is impossible to imagine happening with today's pampered rock stars. Lennon's charisma and ability to influence those around him comes to the fore during the recording. If he hadn't been one half of the most prolific song-writing duo in history he could easily have started his own cult, with his Christ-like appearance only adding weight to this feeling.

At only 45 minutes it is a touch on the short side. More positively the 30+ minutes of bonus material at least go someway to recompensing the viewer. However, it is arguable that some of this material would be better represented as part of the main documentary. The bonus material in itself is interesting, though can feel at times as if it was an ego massage for the Canadian public as the question, 'Why us?' is asked over and over again.

Lennon had an impact on most people who met him, and the impact of this particular bed-in and resulting recording is glanced over without ever really expanding upon the question of its influence beyond Montreal. Give Peace A Song was originally released by the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) two years ago in North America, and interestingly was headed John & Yoko: Give Peace A Song on the other side of the pond, whereas the UK release drops Yoko's name. Perhaps this says more about the reception for her in the respective release areas than a thousand words can.

All in all, Give Peace A Song is worth watching and a sound addition to the plethora of Lennon material available out there, this is due mainly to the first hand accounts in the feature. But I can't help feeling that director Paul McGrath has missed a trick with this one; somehow it is as if only half the story was told.
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