Sympathy for the Devil (film)
Sympathy for the Devil (originally titled One Plus One by the film director, and distributed under that title in Europe) is a 1968 avant-garde film shot mostly in color by director Jean-Luc Godard, his first British made, English language film. It is a composite film, juxtaposing documentary, fictional scenes and dramatised political readings. It is most notable for its scenes documenting the creative evolution of the song "Sympathy for the Devil" as the Rolling Stones developed it during recording sessions at Olympic Studios in London.
|One Plus One|
(Sympathy for the Devil)
1969 premiere poster
|Directed by||Jean-Luc Godard|
|Produced by||Eleni Collard|
|Written by||Jean-Luc Godard|
|Music by||The Rolling Stones|
Anthony B. Richmond
|Edited by||Agnès Guillemot|
In 1968, Jean-Luc Godard moved to London intending to make a film about abortion. When he discovered that, due the 1967 Abortion Act, it was no longer a hot topic, he told his producers he would still make a film in London, but on the condition that he would work with either the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. The Beatles turned him down, but the Rolling Stones were happy to collaborate. As a result, he was able to capture their work in progress as they rehearsed and recorded material for their seventh album, Beggars Banquet.
Composing the film's main narrative thread are several long, uninterrupted shots of the Rolling Stones in London's Olympic Studios, recording and re-recording various parts to "Sympathy for the Devil". The dissolution of Stone Brian Jones is vividly portrayed, and the chaos of 1968 is made clear when a line referring to the killing of John F. Kennedy is heard changed to the plural after the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in June.
Interwoven through the movie are outdoor shots of Black Panthers milling about in a junkyard littered with rusting cars heaped upon each other. They read from revolutionary texts (including Amiri Baraka) and toss their rifles to each other, from man to man. A group of white women, apparently kidnapped and dressed in white, are brutalized and ultimately shot, off-camera; their bloody bodies are subsequently seen in various tableaus throughout the film.
The rest of the film contains a political message in the form of a voiceover about Marxism, the need for revolution and other topics in which Godard was interested. One scene involves a camera crew following a woman about, played by Anne Wiazemsky in a yellow peasant dress, in an outdoor wildlife setting; questions are asked of her, to which she always answers either "yes" or "no". As can be seen from the chapter heading to the scene, she is supposed to be a personification of democracy, a woman named 'Eve Democracy'.
At least one quarter of the film is devoted to indoor shots of a bookstore that sells such diverse items as Marvel's Doctor Strange, DC's The Atom, and The Flash comic books, Nazi pamphlets for propaganda, and various men's magazines. Alternating with the shots of comic books, pinup magazines, and Nazi pamphlets, consumers casually enter the bookstore, approach a bookshelf, pick up books or magazines, exchange them for a sheet of paper, and then slap the faces of two Maoist hostages sitting patiently next to a book display. Toward the end of the scene, a small child is admitted for the purpose of buying a pamphlet and slapping the faces of the hostages. After exchanging their purchases and receiving their document, each customer raises his or her right arm in a Nazi salute, and leaves the store.
Mimicking the earlier scene of the camera crew following Eve Democracy is the last scene to the movie where the camera crew mills about on the beach and from afar one man asks another "What are they doing over there?" To which the other answers "I think they're shooting a movie". A large camera crane is positioned on the beach and another woman in white is laid down upon the end of the crane and elevated, along with a motion picture camera, on the platform until she is well above the beach. She doesn't rise up but remains motionless, half-hanging off the crane, one leg dangling.
- Houston, Penelope (29 November 1968). "ARTS: Cinemarxmanship". The Spectator. p. 24.
- Scovell, Adam (8 May 2018). "Rare images of Jean-Luc Godard hanging out with The Rolling Stones". British Film Institute.
- Greenspun, Roger (April 27, 1970). "Screen: 'Sympathy for the Devil' ('1+1')". The New York Times.
- Raymond, Hélène. "One Plus One". artfilm.ch. Archived from the original on 2 January 2007.