John Lennon – ‘Gimme Some Truth’ and ‘Imagine’ (2018): Movies

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During a 1971 photoshoot, celebrity photographer David Bailey complimented John Lennon on his new clean-shaven look. Seemingly delighted, Lennon responded “I was hiding before,” and expressed excitement over his upcoming album.

Experiencing Lennon at his creative peak — and embarking on a new life with wife Yoko Ono — is the main reason to watch the films Gimme Some Truth: The Making of John Lennon’s Imagine and Imagine, the film Lennon and Ono co-directed in 1971. Both are newly restored and available on DVD and Blu-ray as part of the ongoing celebration of Lennon’s landmark album. They also benefit from a surround-sound remix by Grammy Award-winning engineer Paul Hicks, and have been remastered in HD from the original film reels.

Directed by Andrew Solt (who also helmed the 1988 documentary Imagine John Lennon), Gimme Some Truth follows the couple as they record the Imagine album at their Tittenhurst Park, Ascot home. Interspersed with outtakes from the Imagine film, the documentary shines when portraying John Lennon in his element: the studio.

Watching him furiously spitting the lyrics to “Gimme Some Truth” or earnestly crooning “Jealous Guy” provides a riveting fly-on-the-wall experience. Band members gather around the kitchen table, with Lennon laughing and excitedly telling them of his latest compositions. George Harrison appears, joking with his old friend and playing a delicate guitar solo on “Oh My Love.” Ono serves as an almost constant presence, offering suggestions and even mending Lennon’s jeans.

While John Lennon often smiles, laughs, and uses funny voices, he transforms into an intense performer when it comes to recording the music. His temper flares occasionally, his ire sometimes directed at producer Phil Spector. Yet Lennon also displays kindness to a troubled, disheveled fan, even inviting him inside so the drifter can eat a decent meal.

Gimme Some Truth does not offer any insights that would surprise longtime fans, but it presents a vivid picture of a man at ease with his life. Lennon revels in renewed creativity and supports Ono in her artistic endeavors. For that moment, the singer/songwriter appeared optimistic about the future.

Meanwhile, younger generations who claim Beyoncé invented the visual album should be shown Imagine, the conceptual film Lennon and Ono co-directed in 1971. Shown on television in 1972, it offers visual interpretations of each Imagine track. Having learned from videos such as “Rain,” “Strawberry Fields Forever,” and “Penny Lane,” Lennon avoids following the songs’ exact storylines. Instead, the videos span comedy, drama, and the absurd.

Audiences who first saw the film on television in 1972 may have been puzzled by scenes like Lennon and Ono playing chess with all white game pieces. Viewing Imagine over 45 years later, it is evident that the couple wanted to portray elements of their lives. The touching “Oh My Love” segment simply features Lennon and Ono strolling through their property, basking in their romance. “Gimme Some Truth” shows the couple participating in a protest, while “Crippled Inside” is accompanied by home video footage of a party with friends (including Andy Warhol and Miles Davis).

Other scenes were filmed in New York; seeing them on a ferry gazing at the World Trade Center brings a lump in the throat. However, they also dance down the streets and listen to various objects through stethoscopes. Consistent with Ono’s involvement in the Fluxus art movement, the videos suggest that art can be created everywhere out of anything. In this case, Imagine lets the couple present their relationship as art.

They never take themselves too seriously, as in the scene where Ono walks with various friends including Fred Astaire, George Harrison, Dick Cavett, and Jack Palance to gaze out a window. Amusing music and exaggerated strides and gestures add to the film’s surreal qualities. Toward the end, Lennon and Ono run toward each other on a beach, screaming each other’s names. Just when the viewer expects them to passionately embrace, they clumsily run past each other.

As the stethoscope segments suggest, art — and life — exists everywhere. Imagine explores these themes, and created the template for artists such as Beyoncé who wish to transform their music visually.

The new release also includes bonus features such as the aforementioned photoshoot with Bailey and raw vocal mixes of “How?” “Gimme Some Truth” and “Jealous Guy.” Each is shown as a split screen: one side films John Lennon from the perspective of being in the studio, while the other side offers Phil Spector’s view from the control room. Hearing Lennon’s naked vocals on each track demonstrates how he stands as one of the most powerful singers in rock and roll.

Kit O'Toole

Kit O'Toole

Kit O'Toole is a lifelong music enthusiast who maintains a stand-alone music blog called Listen to the Band. In addition, she is the internet columnist and a contributing editor for Beatlefan magazine. She also holds an Ed.D. in Instructional Technology. Contact Something Else! at [email protected]
Kit O'Toole
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