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  • Self-Portrait and Mr & Mrs Lennon’s Honeymoon by John Lennon and Yoko Ono are premièred in London

Self-Portrait and Mr & Mrs Lennon’s Honeymoon by John Lennon and Yoko Ono are premièred in London

The New Cinema Club at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London hosted the premières of two films by John Lennon and Yoko Ono on this day.

The event was titled Evening With John and Yoko, and the films were Self-Portrait and Mr & Mrs Lennon’s Honeymoon. Three earlier films, Rape, Smile, and Two Virgins, were also shown.

Printed promotional cards were issued containing a Lennon sketch and the handwritten words: “Come and see the freak show! With Films! John and Yoko’s evening of film events will end towards midnight. It will happen once. It will be what they want it to be… all seats 25/-” (25 shillings).

Programme for Evening With John and Yoko, 10 September 1969

Photo: Matt Summers

Following Two Virgins parts of the unreleased Abbey Road album were played while the film reels were changed. Hostesses distributed metal tins and wooden spoons, signed by Lennon and Ono, to the audience members.

Prior to the following film – Film No. 5, or Smile – two people in a large white bag were led to the front and positioned by a microphone. Bells and the Hare Krishna mantra emanated from the bag, which did not, contrary to some reports, contain Lennon and Ono. During Smile the audience also used the tins and spoons to make a cacophony soundtrack.

Self-Portrait – billed as the “first audio-visual and smell film” – was a 15-minute slow-motion study of Lennon’s penis becoming erect. It was soundtracked by more from Abbey Road.

Unsurprisingly, Self-Portrait attracted the bulk of the limited press attention that the evening received.

One film had the camera simply staring at Lennon’s penis. Lasting some 40 minutes (it seemed like an eternity), it focused upon the unaided tumescence and detumescence of his member, reaching some sort of climax with a pearl-like drop of semen. The film, then jocularly known as “John Lennon’s John Thomas” is actually called Self Portrait. The item listed in Yoko’s filmography as Erection is in fact about John watching a hotel being built.

John and Yoko were in the cinema, and during the performance there was a door open to the left of the screen with a sharp red light directed towards the auditorium. No one enquired about this, but it was later revealed Yoko had installed equipment to film the critics’ reaction to John’s comings and goings. The audience was to be one half of a split-screen feature: John showing his all, the critics responding to it frame by frame. Fortunately or unfortunately Yoko’s apparatus recorded nothing. Sighs of relief all around. Otherwise that Film Critics’ Circle might now be part of a permanent installation projected on the wall of Liverpool’s John Lennon International Airport.

Philip French
The Observer

Mr & Mrs Lennon’s Honeymoon, a documentary about the couple’s honeymoon bed-in for peace in Amsterdam, was billed with the different title John & Yoko Honeymoon. Directed by Peter Goessens, it was filmed in colour and lasted 40 minutes. It begins with shots from the city intercut with Lennon and Ono singing “Hair peace, bed peace”, followed by scenes of the couple sleeping and reading newspapers. The second half contains interviews and footage of Lennon talking into the camera.

The event was billed with the words: “John and Yoko’s evening of film events will end towards midnight. It will happen once. It will be what they want it to be.”

Two people sat in a white bag beneath the screen at the ICA throughout the evening, leading many to believe the couple was actually present. This was not the case, however, although the audience was filmed using infrared cameras, allowing Lennon and Ono to watch the proceedings at a later date.

Last updated: 22 July 2022
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