banner image

:: Sympathy For The Devil

Jean-Luc Godard’s film, intended by the director to be called One + One, started out initially as a film about abortion. But as part of the bid to lure the controversial director across to the UK to apply his unique perspective on the highly charged political events of the day, the deal was done by allowing him access to film the Rolling Stones during the ‘Beggar’s Banquet’ recording sessions of the song ‘Sympathy For The Devil’.

There was a time of heightened worldwide political tensions, with people becoming increasingly aware of the cost of the Vietnam War, and with students rioting on the streets in France. Godard himself was at his potent, increasingly distancing himself from traditional filmmaking, which he had come to regard as cultural imperialism. His ideas for One Plus One rapidly changed and evolved.

The film consequently alternately switches between scenes of the Rolling Stones (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman) in a recording studio and various moments representing the struggle by the black man against the oppression, and the relationship between youth and democracy. The sequences of the Rolling Stones jamming, rehearsing and recording Sympathy For The Devil are all filmed in flowing 10-minute single-take, showing the band recording one of their most potent songs, about the Kennedy family, assassination and the seduction of evil. We see the song go through various stages, from a raw, acoustic ballad, through to it’s full-on use of tribal beats and dirty blues guitar rhythms.

Godard taps into the mood and character of a certain period – the sixties, the Stones, Black Power, Malcolm X, Vietnam, Marxism - and the film is practically a lexicon of all the counter-culture buzzwords of the period, of a revolutionary spirit.

Typically Godard though, are the intangible moments when it connects with something beyond what anyone else can achieve with the way he makes his films, and this one in particular. Anything by the Rolling Stones is certainly worth viewing on its own and captures something magical about the period. Fans of the band will undoubtedly love the sections of them recording, but will could be a little put off by Godard’s obscure political inserts. Conversely, Godard fans may have little interest in the Stones but will enjoy him at his most creative and sublime.

It comes as a terrific presentation, with the inclusion of both the Theatrical Release and the Director’s Cut, a Making Of documentary, and plenty of other content.

DVD Extras

Original Jean-Luc Godard Director's Cut “One Plus One”
“Voices” - 1968 award-winning documentary on Jean-Luc Godard filmed during the making of “One Plus One”
Original Theatrical Trailer
Rolling Stones Scene Selection only
Umbrella trailers

The extra features for this DVD release are quite superb. As well as the theatrical release of the film, we also have the full One + One Director’s Cut of the film under its original title, which is actually slightly shorter than the theatrical release. The “Voices” Documentary is a film by Richard Mordaunt, documenting the making of the film. As well as a great deal of behind the scenes footage, there are interviews with Godard and clips of news items and speeches, illustrating the period well. The Trailer makes the film look quite phenomenal.