Sympathy for the Devil (One Plus One) Reviews
I'm a big Stones fan, and I've always kinda been fascianted by and interested in the Counterculture, Black Power, and Marxism/communism, etc. I also appreciate artsy/experimental cinema to a degree, and have respect for the French New Wave. Given all that, you'd think I'd love the hell out of this movie.
But to be honest, this one's a bit of a rough sit. I'm not really sure what Jean-Luc Godard is trying to get at here. I mean, I can kind of see a connection between the song's lyrics (and to a degree, the music) with the wild, revolutionary, political stuff in the vignettes, but I don't think they quite gel together as much as intended. This is all very messy, rough, ragged, and I actually think it helps that I saw a bootleg copy of this. However, much of this comes off as pointless, random, and pretentious. The vignette stuff is basically just made up of things that Godard was into at the time, and to me, the end result just feels like a bunch of intellectual wanking off.
I do like though that all of the footage is made up of lengthy unbroken shots, often done with a smoothly tracking dolly, and that the film is at least trying for some kind of great message (or at least trying to capture the politics and music of the day), but I think this could have been better if done as two separate films, one being an analytical look at the recording session, and the other being an omnibus collection of political skits. When put together they come off as, like I mentioned, pretentious.
This actually does start off pretty interesting, at least for a while. But after a certain point, it's a bit of a chore to get through, and I have a feeling that this would be a lot less tedious if one views it while chemically altered.
Bottom line: this does have its merits, and I love the deconstruction of the 'genius creator myth'. It works best in segments but as a whole, no, not really. Due to my biases though, I'll give this a bit of credit, though I think this should have been a whole lot better.
Here my fantasy plays startlingly accurate. That girl from La Chinoise wanders around answering questions with only yes or no. The Black Panthers rattle off propaganda that lost its relevance well before Los Angeles lost its football team. And of course, some people buy books from a Nazi, but not before slapping a pair of Maoists.
The scenes of the Rolling Stones recording their fantastic track Sympathy for the Devil are interesting, but the rest in patent Godard pretense.
The making of Sympathy for the Devil was interesting, but even that was ruined by having some d*ckhead read (fairly low quality) books over the scenes. You do get a sense of the development of the song, but there is no indication of the creative genius that drove the development. Even worse, there is no footage of the ultimate development of the song, the final take that is committed to vinyl.
If, like me, you are a Stones fan, you will be ready to smash in your TV within a few minutes of the movie starting. The thing to note is that the incredibly crappy direction the movie took was through no doing of the Stones, but through having Jean-Luc Goddard as the director (though with any French director the result would have been the same).
I strongly recommend that you avoid this, or at least have your finger paused above the Fast Foward button at all times. Other than the pieces involving the Stones, there is absolutely nothing worth watching here.
[/i]dir. Jean-Luc Godard
In this smash bag of images and oft distorted sounds, the Rolling Stones gently work there way through many versions of their anthemic hit song, "Sympathy for the Devil".
Godard brings us into the Stones's workshop and we are immediately thrust into witnessing the genesis of the totemic piece. They work at it for a while, halt, come back, and return as the song slowly evolves toward the familiar work that has been left for us to peruse and abandon as we see fit. However, this is not merely a showcase for the Stone's songcraft. Indeed, Godard has something political to say and he does so using a mad variety of texts that various individuals read throughout the film. There are militant black nationalists, possible Panthers, reading inflammatory texts about revolution, the black man's desire for white women over her black sisters, and various other concrete concepts regarding the need for blacks to get involved in the struggle against economic oppression. There is also a kinky book store that stocks cheap sensational paperbacks, men's magazines and comic books. The owner reads from what may perhaps be [i]Mein Kampf, [/i]a white nationalist work that echoes the urgent pleas of the militant blacks. There are numerous nazi-oriented texts on display and when customers come in they give the Sieg Heil before exiting. The key element to all this is struggle; fighting against forces that dare to question the autonomy of the individual. Throughout the film, a man reads random chapters from a sci-fi book that contains pornographic sections and uses historical figures and puts them in mundane situations.
Other moments of note include a young girl named Eve Democracy being interviewed regarding revolutionary ideas and concepts; she's grilled for fifteen minutes about social concerns. She is angelic and meant to be pure. Her face reflects nothing of the difficult questions being posed to her; she merely acquiesces with nearly every one and doesn't seem to have much of an opinion on anything. That she is the first woman as well as the Democratic state seems to be saying something about the naivety of America regarding the revolutionary struggle. The film decidedly challenges ideas about what a film actually is. Godard often layers the reading of the texts so it becomes impossible to follow one specifically for very long. The audience is left with mere fragments that move in and out of the range of hearing and that cannot be relied upon to elicit any substantial meaning. Indeed, Godard doesn't enforce any particular meaning on any of the subject matter he has chosen to display in his film. His black revolutionaries are all hanging out in a junkyard for old cars and read their texts either sitting in these cars or near them. Rifles are also passed down from one to another in what might be preparation for a military exercise. At some point three white girls are brought in and unceremoniously gunned down. It isn't clear what the message is here but it doesn't seem that it is merely included for shock value.
The urgency of this film is felt throughout despite the fact that everything returns to the Stones's cool application to "Sympathy." The man continues to read his texts sometimes over the rehearsal, drowning out Mick as he works through the lyrics. That the band is injected into a film about power struggle seems like a queer thing indeed. The film has a surrealistic quality as nearly every aspect has elements of the absurd working through it. Nothing is to be taken seriously because the intent of the film is merely to address political concerns through the framework of a type of obscene reductionism to that which is the most absurd. Sex and death are looked at with various methods and the entire production comes across as an intriguing, sometimes disturbing floor show replete with the greatest rock 'n' roll band in the world working through one of the greatest rock songs of all time. It's certainly a rare occurrence to see such a spectacle and especially one delivered in such a format. The repetition of the song gives it a hypnotic quality that is well established throughout.
Overall, this film captures a moment in rock history that could never be repeated. Watching the unveiling of the song as it happens is a rare experience that is necessary for understanding the creative process. If it were just that, it would be enough. However, Godard has added an entire lexicon of reactionary momentum that is equally seminal and necessary in its own right. What is the nature of revolution? How far removed from this place we seem to be forty years on. This music seems innocent, untainted, yet dangerous in its own right. The song itself tracks a number of historically relevant events that involve revolutionary aspects. This has to be why Godard chose this particular song to be the springboard for this oft times difficult and exceedingly challenging film.
Before I begin I must take a moment and say...
I find it absolutely marvelous and mind bobbling that Johnny Depp used our dust and bone rhythm slashing guitar slinger, Keith Richards as a template for his character in Pirates. That was a stroke of brilliance on our once apon a time teen idol Depp, cuz, if you watch carefully you'll see the over drugged and corpse like Richards in Depp's performance, givin' the overrated theme park film the edge it needed to stay afloat. Bravo, again, Johnny, you saved the sinking ship.
Now, before the Heroin kicked in, and before one member was found dead in the lead singers swimming pool, our five man band of young british boys who loved to smash out blues numbers in the bar halls of England let another smashing artist take a camera inside the studio walls and film the sometimes drone, cigarette feen smoking, jam session and magic, which offers us a glimpse into the structure, creation: the evolution of a song and how ideas are formed by bouncing off, in this case, licks and drum beats to the end result of a six minute unorthodox rock and roll song titled "Sympathy For The Devil"
Devil is a film/documentary inter-cut with images of some sort of revolution unfolding in a junkyard, with long takes of random shit that I can not even begin to explain. Godard, when not filming the band, seemed to be shooting a side story (not in the way of his kinetic style as in "Breathless") and when the the camera is off the band, this DVD can become dreadfully dull.
I was expecting a bit more from our directing revolutionary, however, sometimes I must keep my expectations in check and just let the films ride for what they are. Anyway, Sympathy For The Devil is a nice display of going from point A and ending up at point SOMEWHERE ELSE. Meaning how two creative souls, Jagger and Richards, start with a simple blues three chord progression and end up with a Romping political/religious samba like tune.
Sympathy For The Devil(the DVD) = 6
Sympathy For The Devil(song)=10
Godard=OFF THE CHARTS!!!