Thursday, October 02, 2008

Blog Post #27: The End (For Now)

The Author, Valparaiso, Chile, October 19, 2005.

By Robert Rosen

Though I didn’t plan it this way when I began on January 21, 2006, this post, the 27th, will be my last. For the time being, I’ve said just about everything I care to say about Chapter 27, the film about the murder of John Lennon, starring Jared Leto as Mark David Chapman and Lindsay Lohan as Jude, a Lennon fan.

If something more should happen, say director J.P. Schaefer drops by my house for a smoke and a friendly cup of coffee, or some porn company releases Chapter 69, starring Ron Jeremy as Chapman and Lohan reprising her role as Jude, I will of course write about it here. But for now I’m moving on to other projects, though will continue to write about movies, politics, and culture on Maiscott & Rosen.

I am, of course, aware that the Chapter 27 DVD was released in the US on September 30, 2008. Some may have noticed that this was Rosh Hashanah, the first day of the Jewish year 5769.

Allow me to show you what happens if you add those numbers together, using the formula provided in Cheiro’s Book of Numbers—a system, incidentally, based on the Hebrew alphabet: 5+7+6+9=27=9

This, I submit, is just one more example of the filmmakers’ utilizing the information about numerology they gleaned from my John Lennon bio, Nowhere Man.

Before I sign off, I want to again thank all the people who’ve been reading this blog, posting their comments, and sending me e-mail. I will continue to respond to all comments and e-mail.

And I especially want to thank everybody in the media—notably at Mojo magazine, Proceso magazine, and The Louie Free Radio Show—who’ve supported me over the years and who took the time to point out the obvious: that the title Chapter 27 came from “Chapter 27” of Nowhere Man.

What follows below are links to, and the dates of, the previous 26 postings. Consider it a handy reference guide.

1. The Roots of Chapter 27 (Including “Chapter 27” Itself) —January 21, 2006

2. John Lennon’s Bible and the Occult Significance of 27 —February 5, 2006

3. Program Note —February 8, 2006

4. Perfect 9: For Yoko Ono on her 73rd Birthday —February 16, 2006

5. Astute Readers, Aspiring Censors, and IMDB: The Chapter 27 Page —February 26, 2006

6. The 27 I Missed —March 25, 2006

7. 27—The Unluckiest Number in Rock ’n’ Roll —April 26, 2006

8. All He Was Saying Was “Give Me a Job!” —May 15, 2006

9. Why Don’t Those “Chapter 27” People Make a Film About John Lennon Instead of Mark David Chapman? —June 9, 2006

10. El Capítulo 27 y Chapter 27 —July 17, 2006

11. The Killing of John Lennon —August 16, 2006

12. 25 Years Ago: Chapman Sentenced to 20 Years to Life —August 20, 2006

13. Letters to Chapter 27 —September 5, 2006

14. October 9: Time Out for Peace —October 5, 2006

15. The Karma (and Dogma) of December 8 —November 18, 2006

16. Annual Report to My Readers: The State of Chapter 27 —December 18, 2006

17. Critiquing the Critics —January 26, 2007

18. With Enemies Like This, Who Needs Friends? —February 6, 2007

19. What Are They Going to Do for an Encore, Burn the Book? —February 12, 2007

20. A Gift to a Dying Movie —February 19, 2007

21. Bring on the Next Bad Numerology Movie —March 1, 2007

22. I Saw a Film Today, Oh Boy —May 2, 2007

23. This Just In… —November 7, 2007

24. The Lost Chapter —February 1, 2008

25. BYOC (Bring Your Own Context) or My Long-Awaited Review —March 26, 2008

26. The Rosen-Corvelay Exchange —April 29, 2008

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Rosen-Corvelay Exchange

The key passage in Nowhere Man that explains the meaning of “Chapter 27.”

A few weeks ago I appeared on the Louie Free Radio Show to discuss the connection between Chapter 27, the movie, and “Chapter 27” in my John Lennon biography, Nowhere Man. On the show, which was broadcast locally in Ohio and over the Internet, I said that Chapter 27 is a mistitled, dispiriting film lacking in context; that writer/director Jarrett Schaefer stole the title from “Chapter 27” in Nowhere Man but didn’t explain what the title meant; that the film does feature three good performances (Jared Leto as Chapman, Lindsay Lohan as Jude, and Judah Friedlander as Paul Goresh); and that Chapter 27 is not, as Premiere magazine suggested, “the most godawful, irredeemable film to yet emerge in the 21st century.”

I also spoke about how the producers’ cynical attempt to capitalize on the controversy surrounding the film succeeded mostly in infuriating people who loved John Lennon, and sparked a counterproductive boycott that generated even more headlines.

My radio interview, which I advertised on IMDB, as well as on numerous blogs and websites, prompted a listener who calls himself “Mr. Art Corvelay” (a name he lifted from a Seinfeld episode) to post a comment on IMDB. Below are an edited version of his comment and my response.

The interview will be available in the Louie Free archives until May 7. To listen, click here, then click on April 16, part 1. The interview begins a little before the halfway point.


Dear Mr. Rosen,

I listened to the interview on the Louie Free Show and I just have one simple question: Have you even read the book Let Me Take You Down: Inside the mind of Mark David Chapman, the Man Who Shot John Lennon by Jack Jones? Because if you had, then you would realize that J.P Schaefer’s film isn’t mistitled and that he didn’t “steal” the title Chapter 27 from your book; he took it from Jones’s book and he correctly credited him.

He probably read your book, and I know he didn’t mention the numerological implications of Chapter 27 and the number 9, but it’s obvious if you read Let Me Take You Down that he basically adapted the first part of that book into a screenplay.

Here’s a quote from Let Me Take You Down that I think you might find quite interesting: “He inserted the cartridges into the five empty slots in the cylinder of the gun. Still watching himself in the mirror, Chapman held the loaded pistol aloft in his right hand and snapped the chamber shut with a flick of his wrist. ‘The Catcher in the Rye of my generation,’ he announced to his looking glass image. ‘Chapter Twenty-Seven.’”

You will find this passage in chapter 3: “The Catcher Gone Awry,” page 21.

I hope this information clears things up a bit.


Mr. Art Corvelay

Dear Mr. Corvelay,

Of course I read the Jack Jones book Let Me Take You Down. I said so in
my blog posting of February 26, 2006, “Astute Readers, Aspiring Censors, and IMDB: The Chapter 27 Page.” Allow me to quote:

“As one astute reader of this blog pointed out, Nowhere Man, my John Lennon biography, is not the first book to mention chapter 27. That honor, if I may use such a word, belongs to Jack Jones’s Mark David Chapman bio, Let Me Take You Down, which I used for my own Chapman research and credited accordingly.”

The problem with Let Me Take You Down, as I’ve said before, is that the passage you quote is the only mention of Chapter 27 in the book. Jones never shows how the number 27 numerologically connects Chapman to Lennon. In fact, as it says in Wikipedia:

Let Me Take You Down provides no information on the numerological meaning of Chapter 27, and fails to show how Chapter 27 played into the heart of Lennon’s obsession with numerology, Cheiro, the number 9, and all its multiples.”

It was this omission that inspired the entire Chapman section in Nowhere Man, which includes “Chapter 27.”

For two years I’ve been asking: If Chapter 27 is based on the Jones book, why isn’t the film called Let Me Take You Down? How is a passing mention of Chapter 27 on page 21 of a 281-page book—a phrase that’s never explained, and that most readers have forgotten by the time they reach the end of the book—the basis for their title?

Obviously, Jones didn’t think Chapter 27 was the correct title. That’s why he called his book Let Me Take You Down. It’s a good title that everybody understands, even if they don’t get the double meaning. (It’s the first line of the Lennon song “Strawberry Fields Forever.”)

Let Me Take You Down
should have been the title of this movie. And I’d suggest that Jack Jones is as pissed off about the title as I’d be if some production company had bought for a pittance the rights to Nowhere Man and called their film Let Me Take You Down.

I’d also suggest that it was only after Jarrett Schaefer read Nowhere Man, and understood the full metaphorical and numerological meaning of Chapter 27, that he considered using it as a title—perhaps believing that enough people were familiar with Nowhere Man that it required no further explanation.

That’s why I believe I should have gotten credit for the title, and that’s why I believe that by calling the film Chapter 27, the producers—who seem to lead the league in generating bad karma, if nothing else—cheated two writers out of appropriate recognition for their work.

Incidentally, the scene you quote from the Jones book isn’t even in the movie. If it were, then the title, Chapter 27, would at least make sense on some level.

I might also add that the British music magazine Mojo and the Spanish-language newsweekly Proceso have both said that the title Chapter 27 comes from “Chapter 27” in Nowhere Man, which goes into great detail about numerology and 27, the “triple 9,” a number of profound importance to Lennon. And anybody who’s read Nowhere Man agrees—because it’s self-evident. Chapter 27 is at the forefront of my Chapman story.

And finally, I should point out that the Spanish-language version of the film is called The Lost Chapter (El Cap
ítulo Perdido) and the Czech version is called The Assassination of John Lennon (Zavraždění Johna Lennona)—because the movie never explains what “Chapter 27” means.

So, I’d invite you, Mr. Art Corvelay, to read Nowhere Man as well as this blog. I think you’ll find them edifying.

Yours truly,

Robert Rosen

PS: I never said they based the screenplay on Nowhere Man. I only said they stole the title from Nowhere Man and grafted it onto a film that has little to do with “Chapter 27.”

PPS: Thanks for listening to the interview. I hope you enjoyed Mary Lyn Maiscott’s cover of the old Lennon-McCartney tune “You Can’t Do That.”

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

BYOC (Bring Your Own Context) or My Long-Awaited Review

Mark David Chapman (Jared Leto) holds a copy of The Catcher in the Rye close to his heart.

Chapter 27

84 minutes
Written and Directed by
Jarrett Schaefer
Starring Jared Leto, Lindsay Lohan, Judah Friedlander, and Mark Lindsay Chapman
From U.S.

The first thing you have to do if you want to understand Chapter 27, the film about the assassination of John Lennon, is read The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger’s classic novel of disaffected youth, originally published in 1951. The book, narrated in the pitch-perfect adolescent voice of hypocrisy-hating Holden Caulfield, is what “inspired” Mark David Chapman to murder Lennon—because he believed that the reclusive, super-wealthy rock star who sang “Imagine no possessions” was, in the words of Holden, a “goddamn phony.”

Throughout the film, Chapman refers to the book, quotes from it, and imagines and acts out scenes from it. But unless Catcher’s fresh in your mind, you often won’t know that that’s what he’s doing. For example, the scene in the coffee shop where Chapman (Jared Leto) asks Jude (Lindsay Lohan) to run away with him is a direct steal from chapter 17 of The Catcher in the Rye—which I didn’t realize till I reread the book after I saw the movie.

also partially explains the film’s title, an essential bit of information that writer/director Jarrett Schaefer has neglected to share with his audience. Schaefer does give some indication that the title Chapter 27 is a reference to the Salinger novel. And he does show some pages from Catcher in the opening sequence, focusing on chapter numbers 9 and 26. But he doesn’t make explicitly clear that Catcher ends on chapter 26 and that Chapman, who saw himself as the reincarnation of Holden Caulfield, believed that if he shot Lennon five times in the back, then he’d write chapter 27 in the ex-Beatle’s blood. That, at least, is how I explain it in my own Lennon bio, Nowhere Man, which is the second book you have to read—because it’s the only book that explains how the number 27 karmically links Chapman to Lennon.

Anybody who’s been following this blog already knows that, according to Mojo magazine and the Spanish-language newsweekly Proceso, Schaefer expropriated his title from Nowhere Man’s “Chapter 27.” In that section I show
how 27, “the triple 9,” was a number of profound importance to the ex-Beatle, who was obsessed with numerology, Cheiro’s Book of Numbers­, and especially number 9 and all its multiples. (Lennon was born on October 9.)

Perhaps if
Schaefer had made this numerological connection, it would have given his film a deeper and more chilling resonance. But choosing instead to completely ignore information that was essential to understanding both the title and the meaning of his story, he simply left it up to the audience to supply their own context, which might be asking a little too much of contemporary moviegoers.

This lack of context may partially explain the hundreds of vicious reviews that have appeared since Chapter 27 premiered last year at Sundance. And it may also explain why, despite the presence of two major stars, the film faced such epic difficulties finding a distributor.

But let there be no doubt that amidst this fundamental confusion one extraordinary performance emerges: Jared Leto as Chapman. He doesn’t just play the character, he inhabits him. Famously (and perhaps insanely), Leto packed on 60 pounds for the role—in one scene the camera sensuously caresses his rolls of fat. And he is riveting as the murderous nerd who speaks in an absurdly creepy southern-accented whisper and is onscreen for virtually every frame of the film. To watch him is a claustrophobic experience, like being trapped in a room for 84 minutes with a socially awkward psychopath.

It’s up to Lindsay Lohan, in her small but appealingly energetic role as Jude, a Lennon fan (based on a real person) who befriends Chapman before realizing there’s something wrong with him, to express the discomfort and repulsion you feel in the presence of the aspiring killer.

She has some help from Judah Friedlander as Paul, based on paparazzo Paul Goresh, who, with a well-timed jolt of energy, alleviates the often crushing sense of being a prisoner of Chapman’s consciousness. Best known for his comedic work on 30 Rock, Friedlander efficiently portrays the slightly sarcastic regular guy from Jersey who photographs Lennon (
Mark Lindsay Chapman) signing Mark David Chapman’s copy of Double Fantasy hours before the murder.

But again
Schaefer doesn’t give his audience enough background or context to fully understand who these people are and why they’re doing what they’re doing. You do learn that Chapman’s a Beatles fan from Hawaii, who appears to have a wife back home. (Chapman’s wife was Japanese, like Yoko Ono, but that’s not mentioned.) The movie’s confined to the three days—December 6-8, 1980—leading up to the murder, and in that time frame it’s almost impossible for Schaefer to show what drove an unemployed security guard to such delusional depths of insanity that he twice traveled 5,000 miles to assassinate a celebrity in the name of Holden Caulfield.

It would have been helpful, for example, to know about the “Little People,” the imaginary civilization that populated Chapman’s head and the walls of his room since he was a child, and whom he depended on to guide him in his decision-making; to know that when Chapman was a teenager, he played the guitar and dropped a lot of acid; to know that in Hawaii he attempted suicide and spent time in a mental institution; and to know that he was compelled by a desire to transcend his own insignificance and steal Lennon’s fame and identity. And it would have been especially illuminating to see Chapman, in his Honolulu apartment, listening to Beatles music in the middle of the night, begging Satan for the power to kill Lennon and chanting, “The phony must die, says the Catcher in the Rye.”

I wrote about all this in the seven final chapters of Nowhere Man, “The Coda,” where the concept of “Chapter 27” is at the forefront of the story and where I probed the meaning of what Chapman did.

Jack Jones also wrote about it in Let Me Take You Down, the book credited with “inspiring” Chapter 27. Though this worthwhile biography fails to explain the numerological implications of Chapter 27 or show how it played into the heart of Lennon’s obsession with the number 9, it does, indeed, plumb the ooze of Chapman’s mind, from his lunatic point of view, detailing everything you could possibly want to know about the killer’s voyage to the depths of the “bottomless pit” (see The Catcher in the Rye, chapter 24, or Nowhere Man’s “Chapter 27”).

And director Andrew Piddington covered some of this material in that other Chapman movie, The Killing of John Lennon, which delves into Chapman’s background and graphically depicts the actual murder in a way that Chapter 27 doesn’t approach.

All this contextual criticism is not to say that Chapter 27 is a “lousy”—if I may borrow a word from Holden—movie. It’s not. It’s just a dispiriting and mistitled one. And now that I’ve seen it, I think I finally understand what Jarrett Schaefer was thinking, at least as far as the title goes. He probably found artistically irresistible both the concept of Chapman writing chapter 27 in Lennon’s blood and the idea of Lennon and Chapman being linked by a mystical number. Because he’s an inexperienced filmmaker, he probably thought he could graft a cool title onto a movie that had little to do with that title, and just leave it at that. He probably thought most people would either get it or wouldn’t care. And he probably believed on some level that the author of Nowhere Man didn’t really exist. Well, he was wrong. And though I’m sure it wasn’t his intention, I’d like to thank him for inspiring this blog.


I’d be remiss if I neglected to mention that I knew well two of the people depicted in Chapter 27: John Lennon’s assistant and my former writing partner, Fred Seaman (Matthew Humphreys), and Fred’s aunt and Sean Lennon’s governess, Helen Seaman (Le Clanche DuRand). I must commend Humphreys, in his brief scene with Chapman, for neatly capturing the contemptuousness that Seaman routinely displayed to anybody he found “beneath” him (like the fans who hung out at the Dakota). But I must also point out that in the very creepy scene where Chapman meets Sean, Helen, an earth mother from the Bronx, is portrayed as an impeccably dressed upper-crusty English lady.


This review with a different photo also appears at The Looseleaf Report.


My April 16 interview on the Louie Free Radio Show is now archived and will remain in the archives until May 7. On the show I talk about Chapter 27 and its connection to “Chapter 27” in my Lennon bio Nowhere Man.
If you’d like to listen, click here. Then click on Part 1 under April 16. The interview begins a little before the halfway point.

Chapter 27 Premiere Dates

- New York, NY - Angelika Film Center

- Los Angeles, CA - Nuart Theatre
- Irvine, CA - Edwards University Town Center 6

- Madison, WI - Sundance Cinemas

- Dallas, TX - Angelika Dallas
- Houston, TX - Angelika Houston
- San Antonio, TX - Bijou at Crossroads
- San Francisco, CA - Sundance Kabuki

- Philadelphia, PA - Ritz at the Bourse

- Washington, DC - E Street Cinema

- Boston, MA - Kendall Square Cinema

Friday, February 01, 2008

The Lost Chapter

Opening page of “Chapter 27” in the Spanish-language edition of Nowhere Man.

Acknowledging one of the fundamental flaws of Chapter 27, the film about the murder of John Lennon, starring Jared Leto as Mark David Chapman and Lindsay Lohan as Jude, a Lennon fan, the distributors of the movie’s Spanish-language version have changed the title. In Latin America and Spain, Chapter 27 is being called El Capítulo Perdido, which translates as “The Lost Chapter” or “The Missing Chapter.”

As I’ve been explaining in this blog for the past two years, and as the media has said as well, Chapter 27’s writer/director Jarrett Schaefer ripped off the title of his film from “Chapter 27” in the Chapman section of my John Lennon biography, Nowhere Man. But he did so only half understanding what that title means, or perhaps understanding what it means but seeing no need to fully explain it.

Schaefer’s film does explain that “Chapter 27” is a reference to the missing chapter of J.D. Salinger’s classic novel of disaffected youth, The Catcher in the Rye, which ends on chapter 26, and which “inspired” Chapman to murder Lennon. (Chapman, as I said in Nowhere Man, believed he was going to write chapter 27 in Lennon’s blood, and then literally disappear into the pages of the book after he shot the ex-Beatle.) But the film does not explain that 27 is also “the triple 9,” which “karmically” connected Chapman to Lennon because it was a number of profound importance to the ex-Beatle, who was obsessed with numerology, Cheiro’s Book of Numbers, and especially number 9 and all its multiples. (Lennon was born on October 9.)

Nowhere Man
is the only book that explains this numerological connection. And I’ve often wondered why Schaefer didn’t call his movie Let Me Take You Down, the perfectly adequate and understandable title of the Chapman biography he based the movie on. Why did he use a title that he doesn’t explain, or credit, and that is only understandable to people who’ve read Nowhere Man or this blog?

Apparently, the Spanish-language distributors couldn’t answer this question, either.

They also had to contend with the fact that the Spanish-language media has been analyzing Nowhere Man since it was published in Latin America in 2003, and that upon learning that Chapter 27 was being made, immediately said that that title came from Nowhere Man.

So, the distributors changed the title to one that made more sense and didn’t require any outside reading to understand.

Chapter 27
is scheduled for theatrical release in the U.S. next month, and I will post my review here as soon as I see it.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

This Just In…

In a piece titled “The Movie Camera Turns on John Lennon’s Murderer,” the December issue of the British music magazine Mojo acknowledges the truth of what I’ve been saying in this blog since January 2006: The title of the film Chapter 27, starring Jared Leto as Mark David Chapman, and Lindsay Lohan as Jude, a Lennon groupie, could only have come from “Chapter 27” of my Lennon biography Nowhere Man.

Both Chapter 27 and another film about Chapman, The Killing of John Lennon, are, according to Mojo, scheduled for release in England on December 7, 2007, the day before the 27th anniversary of Lennon’s assassination.

Crediting Nowhere Man—“Rosen’s compelling account of Lennon’s lost Dakota years”—with being the first “extended extrapolation of the uncanny numerological connections” between Lennon and his killer, deputy editor Andrew Male writes: “Following a labyrinthine series of legal ding-dongs with the Lennon estate, the book finally emerged in 2000 complete with a coda, a
‘Chapter 27’ which connects the numerological meaning of 27—‘the triple 9,’ of profound importance to John Lennon—with Chapman’s belief that killing Lennon would allow him to disappear into the unwritten chapter of J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye.”

The article also notes that Chapter 27 does not fully explain its title; that an online petition group has been trying to pressure movie theaters not to show the film; and that The Killing of John Lennon, an independent film written, directed, and financed by Andrew Piddington and starring Jonas Ball as Chapman, is the superior movie.

(According to recent press reports, Chapter 27 is scheduled for theatrical release in the U.S. in March 2008, and Peace Arch Entertainment, the film’s producer, has just signed an agreement with Genius Products Inc. to distribute the DVD in North America.)

Finally, the Mojo article points out that the price of Nowhere Man in the U.K. is £9.99—a triple 9 that not even I ever noticed before.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

I Saw a Film Today, Oh Boy

Mark David Chapman (Jonas Ball) in his Honolulu apartment.

The Killing of John Lennon
112 minutes
Written and Directed by Andrew Piddington
Starring Jonas Ball
From U.K.

Let’s get this out of the way right now for the legions of Beatles fans who believe that this movie should never have been made. These fans, as I understand it, are outraged not only that the movie exists, but that it’s being shown at film festivals and that it’s been getting glowing reviews since it premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival last August.

The Killing of John Lennon, which made its U.S. debut this week at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival, is not meant to please Beatlemaniacs. It’s not meant to be in “good taste.” It’s not even meant to be entertainment in the traditional sense of the word. It is, rather, a difficult, disturbing, and at times nauseating movie to watch, even if you never cared about the Beatles or Lennon, even if you weren’t yet born on December 8, 1980, and even if you have little sense of who Mark David Chapman—played with chilling accuracy by Jonas Ball—was, what he did, and why he did it.

Why did Chapman do it? Because he was an emotionally disturbed and probably insane individual. He wanted to steal Lennon’s fame, his identity. He saw himself as the reincarnation of Holden Caulfield, the hypocrisy-hating narrator of J.D. Salinger’s classic novel of disaffected youth, The Catcher in the Rye. Chapman thought Lennon was a phony who deserved to die for misleading a generation. And, as I said in my own John Lennon biography Nowhere Man, he thought that if he killed Lennon, he’d write Chapter 27 of Catcher in Lennon’s blood—Catcher ends on Chapter 26—and literally disappear into the pages of the book.

Most of this is very well explained in the movie.

But let me make one other thing really clear, too: Writer/director Andrew Piddington has chosen to show the act of murder in graphic slow motion. Chapman’s five bullets, fired at close range, are seen tearing apart Lennon’s flesh amidst a shower of blood, in the archway of the Dakota, as the ex-Beatle and his wife, Yoko Ono, are returning from a recording session.

So what is this filmmaker up to? Piddington has said that he wants his movie to generate “controversy, adverse criticism, and scorn.” Well, that may be his marketing plan, so to speak. But he’s also said that it was his intention to put on-screen an unflinching presentation of the truth as seen through Chapman’s eyes, as he goes from his dead-end job as a security guard in Hawaii to the aftermath of the murder and his solitary confinement in Attica. Piddington accomplishes this by basing his impressionistic and at times surreal screenplay on the murderer’s journals, statements he made to the police and psychiatrists, interviews, depositions, and court transcripts. The director says that there’s nothing in the script that he didn’t corroborate three times.

That’s an almost impossible standard to employ for any work of journalism, especially for a documentary-like feature film shot on a miniscule budget of $500,000. But it perhaps explains why a number of well-known events and crucial bits of information are missing from the movie. They include:
  • Chapman’s belief that his head and the walls of his room are populated by a civilization he calls the “little people.”
  • Chapman, on his flight to New York from Georgia, sees Lennon on the cover of the November 1980 Esquire magazine, and after reading the article describing the ex-Beatle as little more than a rich businessman, becomes even more enraged by Lennon’s “phoniness.”
  • Chapman meets John’s son Sean and his governess in front of the Dakota.
  • Chapman, in his hotel, reads the January 1981 Playboy interview with Lennon and learns that sometimes he hires fans off the street to work for him.
  • Chapman asks Lennon for a job as Lennon autographs his record album.
  • Chapman, on the morning of the murder, sees Mia Farrow walk in front of the Dakota and takes that as yet another sign that he should kill Lennon. (Farrow played Rosemary, who gives birth to the devil in the Dakota, in the film Rosemary’s Baby.)
The absence of this information is, in the scheme of the film, a piddling criticism that takes nothing away from Ball’s uncannily realistic portrayal of Chapman. And only people intimately familiar with the story (like me) would notice it’s missing.

The Killing of John Lennon, shot on location in New York, Honolulu, and Decatur, Georgia, is a minor miracle of genuine independent/guerrilla filmmaking and should be commended as such. It couldn’t have been easy for Piddington to shoot in front of the Dakota, and that’s undoubtedly why many scenes that in real life took place on the sidewalk directly in front of the building were staged down the block or across the street. And, presumably, it was beyond the limits of Piddington’s budget to shoot the crowds of Lennon fans that haunted the Dakota daily, their numbers swelling after Lennon released Double Fantasy, the album that marked his return to the public eye after five years of seclusion.

And even with its numerous anachronisms—the Virgin Megastore in Times Square, modern subway turnstiles, and the occasional 21st century car—the film doesn’t look cheap; it looks real, and real scary. If anything, The Killing of John Lennon serves as an illustration of the problems associated with low-budget filmmaking and how they can be creatively overcome by a determined and talented filmmaker.


The Killing of John Lennon is playing at the Tribeca Film Festival on Fri., May 4, 5:30 PM, at the Pace University Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts (3 Spruce Street between Park Row and Gold Street). This review, as well as reviews of other films from the festival, can be found at The Looseleaf Report.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Bring on the Next Bad Numerology Movie

Jim Carrey in The Number 23, a numerology movie that fully explains its title.
Christine Loss/Courtesy of New Line Cinema

Ten days ago I called the Howard Stern Show in response to a comment that Stern’s soundman, Fred Norris (or somebody pretending to be Norris), posted here inviting me to speak on the show about the Chapter 27 boycott. The intern whom I chatted with had never heard of Chapter 27 or any boycotts. But he did say that somebody would “check it out” with Norris.

As the show has yet to return my call, I can only assume (until proven otherwise) that “Norris’s” comments about my previous two postings are forgeries. By all appearances these notes are an attempt by the publicity junkies at to scam their next media fix. Because it’s become increasingly clear that, aside from the boycotters themselves, the only people who care if Chapter 27 is picked up for theatrical distribution in the United States are the filmmakers, the Peace Arch Entertainment stockholders, and a handful of hardcore Jared Leto fans.

The “15 minutes” of fame allotted the boycott and the film have expired. If anybody’s still talking about Chapter 27 a few months from now, they’ll probably be saying, “The boycott was better than the movie.” Already, bloggers and critics have moved on to trashing the next numerology movie, The Number 23, which, unlike Chapter 27, at least goes to the trouble of explaining its title.

Yet, as the boycotters assume their rightful place as a footnote to the history of bad films about numbers, they refuse to see the obvious: Chapter 27 hasn’t been picked up for distribution not because of their headline-generating assault on free expression, but despite it—which is an indication of just how fatally flawed the film must be. If I were to venture a guess as to why nobody’s yet expressed a willingness to bring Chapter 27 to a theatre near you, I’d say: Probably because Lindsay Lohan’s limited to 10 minutes of screen time, and no distributor believes a mass American audience is going to shell out 11 bucks each—the current price of a ticket in Manhattan—to look at a fat Jared Leto play a despicable character, no matter how transcendent his performance might be.

Meanwhile, over at the Peace Arch Entertainment business forum, disgruntled PEA investors, as reasonable and well-mannered a group of people as you’ll find on any board in cyberspace, have been analyzing Chapter 27’s aesthetic and financial problems. Though they’re deeply disgusted by the toxic ignorance of the boycotters’ spam-like postings on their site, they think that the boycott itself is a joke that, if anything, has been helping the film—just not enough to put it over the top. And they predict that somebody will eventually pick up Chapter 27—but only after the hype dies down completely and a distributor can get it for a song. For their sake, I hope they’re right.

As for Me

This blog, now in its 14th month, has been an interesting, and at times creatively rewarding, experiment—my first serious foray into cyberspace. I started it because I believed that Chapter 27’s writer/director Jarrett Schaefer had ripped off my title and possibly my concept from the Chapman section of my John Lennon biography, Nowhere Man.

Beatles expert Roberto Ponce, one of Latin America’s foremost cultural critics, agreed that this was most likely the case. In a story about the film, “Mark Chapman, el Asesino de Lennon,” (Mark Chapman, the Assassin of Lennon) which ran in the December 9, 2005 issue of the prestigious Spanish-language newsweekly Proceso, Ponce, quoting extensively from Nowhere Man, explained how Chapter 27 is a metaphor for the murder—that Chapman wanted to write Chapter 27 of The Catcher in the Rye in Lennon’s blood—and how the number 9 and all its multiples numerologically connected Chapman to Lennon.

Then, in a story that ran in the New York Post, and was picked up by the Associated Press, on January 20, 2006, “Ono Tries to Halt Filming of Movie About Lennon’s Killer,” the writers Mandy Stadtmiller and Mary Huhn referenced Nowhere Man to explain the movie’s title. Why? Because Nowhere Man is the only book that fully explains it.

Disappointingly, Schaefer was either too amateurish or too ignorant to fully explain the meaning of Chapter 27—he completely ignored both the numerology angle and the metaphor of writing the missing chapter of The Catcher in the Rye in Lennon’s blood. All he did was “borrow” an obscure title to graft onto a film that has little to do with Chapter 27. Had he fully explained the title, and shown how it numerologically connected Lennon to Chapman, I suspect Chapter 27 would be a more interesting movie.

Of course, everything I’ve written here is little more than educated guesswork—I’ve not yet seen the film. (I only feel as if I had.) Like everybody else who’s interested, I’ll see it when it’s released, in whatever form it’s released in. Then, as promised, I’ll post my review. For now, however, I’m going to take a little vacation from blogging and go someplace tropical. We’ll see where things stand when I get back.