Godard's documentation of late 1960s Western counter-culture, examining the Black Panthers, referring to works by LeRoi Jones and Eldridge Cleaver. Other notable subjects are the role of ... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Sean Lynch ...
Commentary (voice)
...
Himself - The Rolling Stones
Brian Jones ...
Himself - The Rolling Stones
...
Himself - The Rolling Stones (as Keith Richard)
...
Himself - The Rolling Stones
...
Himself - The Rolling Stones
...
Eve Democracy
Iain Quarrier ...
Fascist porno book seller
Frankie Dymon ...
Black power militant (as Frankie Dymon Jnr.)
Danny Daniels ...
Black power militant
Illario Pedro
Roy Stewart ...
Black power militant
Linbert Spencer
Tommy Ansah ...
(as Tommy Ansar)
Michael McKay
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Storyline

Godard's documentation of late 1960s Western counter-culture, examining the Black Panthers, referring to works by LeRoi Jones and Eldridge Cleaver. Other notable subjects are the role of news media, the mediated image, a growing technocratic society, women's liberation, the May revolt in France and the power of language. Cutting between three major scenes, including the Rolling Stones in the studio, the film is visually intercut with Eve Democracy (Wiazemsky) using graffiti which amalgamates organisations, corporations and ideologies. Godard also examines the role of the revolutionary within Western culture. Although he believes Western culture needs to be destroyed, it can only be done so by the rejection of intellectualisation. "There is only one way to be an intellectual revolutionary, and that is to give up being an intellectual" Written by <gary.elshaw@vuw.ac.nz>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Documentary | Music

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Release Date:

22 April 1969 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

One Plus One  »

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Technical Specs

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| (director's cut)

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Color:

(Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

During the course of the film, the lyrics of the song. 'Sympathy for the Devil', change from "Who killed Kennedy?" to "Who killed the Kennedys?", reflecting the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy whilst the film was being made. See more »

Connections

Featured in Voices (1968) See more »

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User Reviews

Political blather and the process of creation
16 June 2002 | by (San Diego, CA) – See all my reviews

Godard made this film during his ultra-loopy "Marxist polemics" period, although before he stopped being so individualistic as to credit himself, rather than a "collective," as the director. It is a rare English-language Godard film, made in the UK. SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL alternates documentary scenes of the Rolling Stones developing and rehearsing the title track (a chilling examination of the seductiveness of evil behavior, and one of the Stones's best songs) with what are basically political skits, plus quick bits showing characters spray-painting political slogans on various surfaces, always cutting away before the character finishes the message.

The Stones scenes in themselves make the film worth seeing (for fans of the song, at least). The process of creating and refining an instantly classic song makes for truly fascinating viewing for those interested in making music and seeing how a song evolves. The viewer initially sees Mick Jagger demonstrating the song on acoustic guitar for the other band members. Gradually (in between political interruptions!), the band fleshes out the song's arrangement, adding keyboards, electric guitar, and multiple layers of percussion, developing this work into the rumbling tempest Stones fans know and love. At one point famous Stones hangers-on Anita Pallenberg and Marianne Faithfull appear to help with the "whoo-whoo" backing vocals. Near the end, Godard himself materializes to pass out cigarettes to the band members, an oddly post-coital gesture.

The film's other scenes? Amusingly absurd at times, the skits usually involve the characters reading various texts for the viewer. Black militants read from Eldridge Cleaver and the like, while the owner of a porno shop reads from what sounds like Nazi texts, while customers present their selections to him, give a Nazi salute, take their purchase and leave. (The equation of pornography with National Socialism here must have warmed Andrea Dworkin's heart.) The black militant scenes feel rather disturbing, as the viewer sees white women in white gowns led at gunpoint into a junkyard, underscored by Cleaver's thoughts on white women. Later the viewer sees the bloodied corpses of a couple of the women, and the film ends with a dead white woman draped over a crane adorned with red and black flags. Godard seems to be endorsing the vengeful Leftist by-any-means-necessary morality, the kind of thing the Stones's song warns against.

The completed version of "Sympathy of the Devil" plays under the film's ending; allegedly Godard was incensed by the producers' inserting the finished song here. Godard probably wanted the rehearsal scenes to symbolize the development of "the revolution" ("you'll get yours, bourgeoisie!"), and, since "the revolution" hadn't come yet, using the _complete_ song would ruin the parallel. That must also be why the vandals never get to complete their spray-painted slogans. I would be quite interested to see ONE PLUS ONE, Godard's director's cut of this film.


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