Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Late in November 2008, Showtime TV began screening the recent movie, Chapter 27. I suppose it is being shown now because its broadcast is tied to the anniversary of the assassination of John Lennon on December 8th. Timing is everything.
The movie has many intriguing moments.
First some background. Chapter 27 is an independent film depicting the murder of John Lennon by Mark David Chapman, starring Jared Leto and Lindsay Lohan. It was written and directed by J. P. Schaefer. Although it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2007, it did not make it to a release in theaters in the USA until March 2008. It came and went quickly, as they say, because it was a box office failure. It retains its "made for television" docudrama feel, and so, perhaps, it is more fitting I saw it on cable.
The film's title refers to Mark David Chapman's alleged obsession with J.D. Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye. The title implies that Chapman's killing of Lennon was a continuation of the book, which only has 26 chapters, and which Chapman was carrying (as his "statement") when he shot Lennon. Chapman appears to have attempted to model (copycat) his life after the novel's anti-hero Holden Caulfield.
According to the December 2007 issue of the British music magazine Mojo and the Spanish language newsweekly Proceso, the film's title was further inspired by Chapter 27 of Robert Rosen's book Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon. Rosen's book examines the numerological meaning of 27, “the triple 9,” a number of profound importance to John Lennon. Lennon was deeply interested in numerology, particularly via Cheiro’s Book of Numbers, and by the number nine and all its multiples.
Since the movie focussed just on the three days that Mark David Chapman spent in New York City, leading up to Lennon's murder, many significant items in Chapman's life were left out of the film. These included
1) that when young, Chapman fantasized about having God-like power over a group of imaginary "Little People";
2) he worked for the YMCA;
3) he visited Lebanon;
4) he once met and shook hands with President Gerald Ford;
5) he worked in Georgia as a security guard;
6) he traveled extensively, visiting such places as Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Delhi, Israel, Geneva, London, Paris, and Dublin;
7) Chapman got a job as a security guard in Hawaii; and finally,
8) while in Hawaii, he told his "Little People" he intended to go to New York and kill John Lennon and they begged him not to, saying "Please, think of your wife. Please, Mr. President. Think of your mother. Think of yourself." Chapman says he told them his mind was made up, and that their reaction was silence. (Was Chapman's "Little People" the menehune?)
Also, we are shown throughout the movie that Chapman was obsessed by The Wizard of Oz, but not that he thought of himself as "Dorothy Gale."
In Chapter 27, I find the key focal point of the film is an involved sequence about coincidences, shortly after Chapman is made aware that Lennon's new album is called Double Fantasy. (See Todd Campbell's new blog posting on "Double Deception.")
In this scene, Chapman is seen making the links that included,
1) the Dakota Building, where Lennon resided, was the site where the movie Rosemary's Baby was filmed;
2) that Roman Polanski was the screenwriter and director of Rosemary's Baby;
3) that it was Polanski's pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, who was murdered by Charles Manson and his Family;
4) that the killings were based on Manson's notion of "Helter Skelter," and
5) that Manson based his scenario on John Lennon's song, Helter Skelter.
Did any of this happen? Or is it movie fiction?
Or, perhaps, is this film placing into popular culture the overt dots that can be connected in what happened at the Dakota on December 8, 1980?
Forthcoming showings of Chapter 27 will occur on
Showtime Next, November 28, 2008, at 9:40 AM ET/PT
Showtime Next, November 28, 2008, at 6:30 PM ET/PT
The Movie Channel, December 7, 2008, at 8:00 PM ET/PT
TMC Xtra, December 14, 2008, at 11:15 AM ET/PT