Monday, April 10, 2023

The Lost Weekend: A Love Story

Beatles fans, all your anger and resentment focused on Yoko Ono is about to be vindicated. It turns out, her influence on John Lennon was maybe even worse than you thought, at least according to May Pang. She ought to know. She was Lennon’s great lost love—and it was Ono herself who got them together. Pang chronicles her 18-month romance with Lennon in Eve Brandstein, Richard Kaufman, & Stuart Samuels’ The Lost Weekend, which has a special nationwide Iconic Events screening this Thursday night.

Nobody denies Pang’s relationship with Lennon, not even Ono. Pang already told her story in her memoirs, whose publishers sent her on considerable publicity tours, as viewers can tell from the talk show footage incorporated into the doc. It all started in 1970, which was a very different era. A teen like Pang could just knock on the door of Apple Records and talk her way into an entry level job. From there, she was hired by Lennon and Ono to be their personal assistant, working on their experimental films nobody ever wanted to watch.

Sensing Lennon was getting a little restless, Ono told Pang to have tryst with Lennon, because she assumed she could control their young assistant. However, a lot more developed between them than a quick and dirty weekend. It turns out, they had real feelings for each other—and Pang was much better for Lennon than Ono ever was.

This film will pretty much damn Ono in the eyes of Beatles fans, because she explicitly explains how Ono tried to isolate John Lennon from his son Julian, while forcing Pang to do her dirty work. In contrast, while he was with Pang, Lennon regularly saw and spoke with his oldest son, as Julian Lennon himself confirms on-screen. In fact, Julian Lennon is one of the major talking heads seen throughout the film, giving Pang credit for maintaining a life-long relationship with both himself and his mother (Lennon’s first wife).

We also hear from archival interview footage that Lennon started to see Paul and Linda McCartney socially again while he was with Pang. Had he stayed with Pang, it is easy to imagine (so to speak) the possibility of a Beatles reunion. Plus, the music he produced during their time together was less didactic and much more fun to listen to. Yet, somehow Ono exerted a Svengali-like hold over Lennon, at least when she was close enough to exert her evil powers of mesmerism, metaphorically speaking.

If you want to see a film that will make you despise Ono, this is it. Deliberately trying to alienate a father from his young son is simply reprehensible. Not surprisingly, Ono did not participate in the documentary, but there is plenty of archival footage of her, including her attempt to address some of the incidents documented, in her own “self-interview.” Even if Pang and company are exaggerating 50%, she has a lot to answer for.

Beyond the Pang-Ono love triangle,
Lost Weekend captures the Bohemian spirit of their time in LA. We even hear from the great Alice Cooper, who was hanging with Lennon, Pang, David Bowie, Elton John, and Harry Nilsson. Regardless, the film definitely has a point-of-view, clearly aligned with Team Pang and Team Julian. So much so, if you identify with Team Ono (99.9 % of the world shudders at that thought) the one-sidedness, perpetuated by the relevant individuals’ willingness to participate, will be an insurmountable obstacle to your viewing enjoyment. However, if it confirms your preconceived notions, Lost Weekend is a surprisingly bittersweet rock doc. Recommended for fans of the Beatles and John and Julian Lennon, The Lost Weekend screens at select theaters this Thursday (4/13), including the Angelika Film Center in New York.