If artists derive creative inspiration from turmoil and despair, then John Lennon must have been the most creatively inspired artist the moment his plane landed in New York City.
I had several very immediate reactions after an early screening of tonight’s American television premiere of Lennon Naked as part of the 40th anniversary season of Masterpiece on PBS (and KERA in North Texas). The first being this is NOT your parents John Lennon. The second, I was floored to think that not only would John Lennon have turned 70 in October, but December 2010 marks the 30th anniversary of his very untimely and unfortunate death. The third, and probably the most important, Lennon’s music is more relevant today than it has ever been.
Robert Jones, the writer for Lennon Naked, said recently that he and director, Ed Coulthard, talked for over two years about how to craft the program before filming ever began. More behind-the-scenes comments from Jones in this article prior to the BBC premiere back in June 2010.
When I heard about the program over a year ago, I have to admit that I was first in line wondering if Christopher Eccleston could pull off his portrayal of John Lennon. This was based solely on a frame of reference of my only knowledge of Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor in Doctor Who. I am now first in line to say he did a masterful job in capturing the true Lennon in a time that many people aren’t really familiar with.
Beginning with ‘the beginning of the end’ of The Beatles, Lennon Naked focuses on Lennon’s monumental internal struggles starting with his growing disdain for the studio years of the band, his growing frustration and retreat from Beatlemania, the death of Brian Epstein and, ultimately, his rapidly deteriorating family situation with Cynthia and Julian. Mix in a returning father which triggers his own deep-seated childhood abandonment issues and you have one of the story of one of the most complex artists of our time.
Ultimately, artists need inspiration. Lennon’s renewed creative inspiration came to a head when he meets Yoko, played by Naoko Mori of Torchwood fame. All in all, it’s a tense 90-minutes, but one well-worth the time. Remember, this isn’t your parents John Lennon.