John Lennon: Love is All You Need Review

John Lennon was born seventy years ago and died thirty years ago. This is a new documentary, released on DVD by Odeon Entertainment.

2010 marks the seventieth anniversary of John Lennon’s birth and the thirtieth of his death. Love is All You Need is a new documentary for both occasions.

The emphasis is on Lennon the man rather than Lennon the musician or songwriter. Or for that matter the Beatle: the collaborations with Paul McCartney is barely mentioned. Most of the musical highlights of Lennon’s career, both as a Beatle and a solo artist, are similarly elided. We do hear about the recording session which produced the Beatles’ version of “Twist and Shout”, which arguably surpasses the Isley Brothers’ original. But we hear nothing of the rest of his Beatles work – no Revolver, no Sergeant Pepper, no White Album – nor even his best solo album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. His experimental work with Yoko Ono is mentioned, and so is his last album Double Fantasy, as evidence that he was still creative when he died.

The emphasis is on his personal life, which is evidenced by the choice of interviewees: not just Yoko but also Lennon’s first wife Cynthia and their son Julian. The only other new interviewee is Paul Gambaccini, providing a critical/historical perspective and showing genuine anger when talking about Lennon’s murder. None of the surviving Beatles appear, except in archive footage, as do George Martin and for that matter John himself.

While not much of this will be unfamiliar to fans, for newcomers it’s perhaps an incomplete picture and it should be supplemented with one of the many books on the Beatles (such as Ian MacDonald’s Revolution in the Head) and Lennon solo, or another of the DVDs (Here, There and Everywhere seems a good bet), or indeed the original albums and singles.

The Disc: John Lennon: Love is All You Need is released by Odeon Entertainment on a single-layered disc encoded for all regions.

The DVD is in the ratio of 1.78:1 and anamorphically enhanced. Most of it is made up of archive footage – both film and video, and cropped from 4:3. Needless to say, some of this is very grainy, and some displays some minor damage but there’s nothing that you wouldn’t expect. The new interviews are shot on what looks like HD Video and are pristine.

The soundtrack is basic mono, and there’s no reason for it to be anything else: that is the original sound mix of all of the archive footage, and the interviews don’t demand more than that. Unfortunately there are no subtitles for the hard of hearing.

There are a couple of extras which seem to be outtakes from the main feature. First up is “Memorial to John” (3:46):which appears to be 1980 news footage, concerning Liverpool fan David Backhouse who created his own tribute. Next up is an interview with filmmaker Tony Palmer (4:11), which mostly covers Lennon’s influence on his 1968 documentary about the contemporary music scene, All My Loving, which made the BBC very nervous, finally putting it out late at night. Finally, there is a trailer for Odeon’s other Beatles DVD, Here, There and Everywhere (2:29), which tells the Beatles’ story through news footage from the ITN archive.


Updated: Jul 31, 2010

Get involved
Continue the conversation over on The Digital Fix Forum
John Lennon: Love is All You Need Review | The Digital Fix