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When Richard Curtis imagined John Lennon having a Suffolk connection in his 2019 film Yesterday, it depicted the
Beatle making a living as an obscure artist in Shingle Street. However, there was an element of truth in the edgy Moptop attempting to create something avant garde in the county as, 52 years ago this month, he made a short film in Lavenham.
He and his second wife, Yoko Ono, turned up in December 1969 to capture the
launch of a helium balloon from the
Market Place in the hope of further
promoting their worthy but naive crusade for world peace. The 18- minute sequence was called Apotheosis 2, a follow-up to the original Apotheosis movie, which had been shot at a Hampshire airfield three months earlier.
Although Yoko had opened
John’s eyes to provocative new
ways of making art and had come
up with the concepts for their
earlier celluloid projects, such as
Smile and Self Portrait, Apotheosis 1
and 2 were very much his babies.
The dictionary defines their shared
title as reaching the highest
elevation in the development of a
project or the elevation of a person
to divine status, but those who saw
the finished efforts could not make out the message behind them.
Bemusing the public was nothing new for the couple. When Smile premiered at the 1968
Chicago film festival, half the audience walked out before the end. This was not really surprising as it featured John poking his tongue out and wiggling his eyebrows in slow motion for a bottom-numbing 52 minutes. Yoko had initially intended to stretch the footage across an incredible four hours, but fortunately that was not to be.
Debenham born-and-bred cinematographer Nic Knowland, who had already worked with the Ono-Lennons on their one-hour documentary Bed Peace (famously filmed over
seven days in the bedroom of their honeymoon hotel in Amsterdam), was only too happy to again lend his assistance on Apotheosis 1 and 2.
For the first film he climbed inside the balloon’s basket with his camera and a soundman at dawn while the planet’s most controversial newlyweds stayed on the ground. Knowland – who has since worked on mainstream TV dramas from Marple to Wire in the Blood – was briefed to record them from above until they gradually disappeared from view, then to show a map-like view of the runway and surrounding fields until the balloon was consumed by clouds. Bird and wind noise was its only accompaniment.
When the Ono-Lennons turned up in Lavenham on Saturday December 5 for a second essay on the same
theme, the timing of the shoot changed to dusk. A BBC documentary called The World of John and Yoko was being made in tandem and gave viewers an insight into the pair’s rather bizarre ‘
Nostalgia
 Lennon in Lavenham
Kim Smith recounts the snowy December day that John lennon and Yoko Ono launched a giant helium balloon from Suffolk’s most famous village
Artwork: Sherry Tolputt
  A BBC documentary
was being made . . . and gave viewers an insight into the pair’s rather bizarre weekend.
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