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Film

John Lennon's favourite film of all time

Over the years, John Lennon expressed his admiration for several cinematic masterpieces which shaped his own artistic vision and fuelled his passion for the counter-culture movement. While he respected most of the filmmakers who managed to stimulate his mind through the spectacle of cinema, there was one famous exception to this.

In various interviews, Lennon claimed that Citizen Kane was one of those films which moved him from the moment he first saw it. Orson Welles’ iconic masterpiece which shattered the conventions of visual narrative probably meant a lot to him because it came out a year after he was born and stayed with him till the end.

However, Lennon criticised Welles for the man he had become in the later stages of his life and was particularly incensed about his appearance on the Dick Cavett show. “He goes on [The] Dick Cavett Show,” Lennon said, “And he’s sort of ‘Please love me, I’m a big fat man now and I’ve eaten all this food and I did do well when I was younger and I can act, I can direct, and you’re all very kind to me but at the moment I don’t do anything.'”

Alongside Citizen Kane, Lennon always maintained that he was particularly moved by the creations of Federico Fellini. His favourite Fellini film was the enigmatic 1969 fantasy drama Satyricon which was intended as a self-reflexive exploration of human depravity contextualised within the landscape of Rome. Fellini explained: “I am examining ancient Rome as if this were a documentary about the customs and habits of the Martians.”

At one point, Lennon was even reported to join the cast of Satyricon alongside other icons such as Boris Karloff and Groucho Marx. Fellini insisted that he wanted an-all star cast which would range from The Beatles to Brigitte Bardot but he had to settle for other actors. While The Beatles never got to star in it, the film had a huge impact on Lennon who said: “The Beatles tours were like the Fellini film Satyricon.”

More than any of these iconic films, the cinematic experience that blew John Lennon’s mind was Alejandro Jodorowsky’s hallucinogenic interpretation of the western genre El Topo. The director claimed that he wanted to create an image that would be permanently embedded in the audience’s mind, facilitating a state of enlightenment that would be like “LSD without LSD.”

El Topo impressed both Lennon and Yoko Ono who were deeply interested in spiritual experiences. They attended multiple screenings of the film and were increasingly affected by what Jodorowsky had created. In fact, Lennon loved El Topo so much that he told his manager to hand $1 million to Jodorowsky for any new project he wanted to make. Due to the endorsements of Lennon, Yoko Ono and other icons like Bob Dylan and Roger Waters, El Topo became an indispensable part of the counter-culture movement.

“We thought El Topo was a great work of art and we thought it should get exposure,” Lennon claimed, while explaining why he had felt the urge to promote and even fund Jodorowsky’s talented endeavours. It is clear that part of Lennon’s love for El Topo was also influenced by Yoko Ono’s attachment to the film as she was a conceptual artist and Jodorowsky’s artistic composition resonated with her. She went so far as to describe the director as a “rare genius.”

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