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Rubber Soul: SXSW Review

Rubber Soul SXSW Still - H 2014
SXSW

The Bottom Line

A thought-provoking novelty for Beatlemaniacs.

Venue

South By Southwest Film Festival, 24 Beats per Second

Cast

Joseph Bearor, Denice Lee, Dillon Porter, Andrew Perez

Director-Screenwriter-Editor

Jon Lefkovitz

Jon Lefkovitz reenacts two major interviews given by John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

AUSTIN — A live-action reenactment of two interviews John Lennon and Yoko Ono gave in 1970 and 1980 (though Ono mostly sat silently while Lennon spoke), Jon Lefkovitz's Rubber Soul uses time's effect on opinion and memory to pursue a deeper understanding of the songwriter and the Beatles. Sometimes fascinating in its interplay and revealing for viewers who haven't read the source material -- thought obsessive fans are its only likely audience -- the picture has a narrower appeal than Good Ol' Freda, the delightful Beatlecentric doc that premiered here a year ago and went on to find distribution with Magnolia Pictures.

Joseph Bearor and Denice Lee barely resemble John & Yoko (Lee really looks nothing like the latter), but the dissimilarity isn't fatal: Bearor delivers Lennon's lines capably, displaying a conviction in their sentiments even if he never conjures the illusion that we're in a room with the star. Introductory titles inform us that the chunks of interviews we hear are taken verbatim from transcripts.

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Cutting frequently between 1970 and 1980 (the latter interview took place just three months before Lennon's murder), the filmmakers show both how repetitive celebrity interviews can be -- the same topics are discussed by both interviewers -- and how little the answers they elicit should be trusted. 1970-version Lennon admits at one point that a fair chunk of what he's saying is nonsense or lies. But the contrasts can be interesting. In 1980, he admits lying when he'd claimed that he and Paul McCartney never wrote songs in the same room -- they wrote together all the time, he says, including in the back of vans, and he simply got tired of talking about it after a while. In 1970, he claims near-ignorance of musical trends, while in 1980 he has strong opinions about the punk scene.

Though Lennon grows animated when discussing the public's and his old bandmates' attitudes toward Ono, the film is most engaging when he's self-critical. He admits "I was a real pig" in the Beatle years, though he claims piggishness is a requisite for success in music; he says that before Phil Spector had his way with Let It Be, that album was "the shittiest load of badly recorded shit." He's most revealing when speaking about his attitude toward money and the fact that, despite his vocal political activities, he never registered or voted. All these insights may be available already to fans, but Lefkovitz's strategy adds just enough insight to produce another relic for those who'll never know enough about the Fab Four and their legacy.

Production Company: Long Short Productions

Cast: Joseph Bearor, Denice Lee, Dillon Porter, Andrew Perez

Director-Screenwriter-Editor: Jon Lefkovitz

Producers: Stephen Paratore, Talia Stol

Director of photography: Anthony C. Kuhnz

No rating, 82 minutes