Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Lennon Naked (2010)

Lennon Naked is solid BBC4 biographical TV film from 2010 that is boosted by the brilliant and always watchable Christopher Eccleston (one of several productions I've rewatched with him in recently) giving an unflinching approach at Lennon the man.




Let's face it, John Winston Lennon was a complex man. Abandoned by both father (played here in fractious scenes of father/son reunion by Christopher Fairbank, dusting off his scouse accent from Auf Wiedersehen Pet) and mother as a small child, he grew up not only to be a global rock and roll superstar and a spokesman for the peace movement but also a contrary, snide, wife beating, adulterous and emotionally manipulative dick who walked out on his son Julian much like his own parents had done to him. In focusing on this, the film is lifted beyond mere biopic into something more psychologically meaningful and a touch Freudian. 




It's actually refreshing to see a production that addresses Lennon as a whole rather than just create a puff piece or, adversely, an out and out attack. It is, as the title suggests, Lennon naked. It is a Lennon so embittered by his lack of parental guidance that he fails to see he is destined to make the very same mistake. It's a canny conceit and well played in the film, especially in the final stages when we see John play 'Mother' in confrontation with his father, before jetting off to the States with Yoko for a new life, ill fated never to return, and seeming somewhat taken aback by one journalist daring to ask at that farewell press conference "What about your son?" The film doesn't give us an answer, beyond the head turning reaction swallowed up by harsh photoflash. One wonders if Lennon, for all his naval gazing, would even have had an honest truthful answer.




Eccleston's on form as the man himself and despite his age (he was 46 at the time of filming - an age Lennon was never to see - and has the difficult task of playing Lennon from the ages of 27 to 31, as well as one scene at the start as a 24 year old) and his non Liverpudlian status, he captures his look, mannerisms and the beguiling mix of prickly cynicism and naive wonder rather well.  



This was Eccleston's first return to the BBC after having played Doctor Who five years previously. He's joined here by fellow Whoniverse actor, Naoko Mori (of Torchwood and indeed an episode of Doctor Who in which Eccleston starred) as Yoko Ono, the controversial figure for whom many still cite as the reason for the break up of The Beatles. It's an unenviable role, and frankly Mori, despite being de-beautified, is far too pretty to play the mad artist but she performs it very well and never once resorts to cliche, however slim the role and intangible the woman herself actually is.

Interestingly, the Doctor Who link doesn't end there as further down the cast list we find Andrew Scott as Paul McCartney. Scott played Jim Moriarty in Who honcho Steven Moffatt's other big BBC show, the excellent Sherlock. I must admit I find Scott a bit Emperor's New Clothes, beloved of squealing fangirls and, in turn, Bafta (who awarded him, bafflingly, the Best Supporting Actor trophy last year for his cartoonish Moriarty) yet his mimicry of Macca here is quite superb.



At just 80 minutes Lennon Naked never outstays its welcome and offers the viewer much to think about. It also has one of my favourite exchanges, so good it could have actually featured in one of The Beatles movies;

Accountant: "It's a fact that you're all very rich men"
Ringo: "I like that fact. That's a good fact."

Oh and yeah, you do get to see Lennon (Eccleston and Mori) Naked. Quite a bit actually.



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