Psychedelic-Rock'n'roll: Sympathy For The Devil, DVD 1968

21 January 2012

Sympathy For The Devil,
DVD 1968


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Sympathy For The Devil
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
100 minutes, 1968

"Sympathy For The Devil" (originally titled "One Plus One" by the film director and distributed under that title in Europe) is a 1968 film shot mostly in color by director "Jean-Luc Godard".
"Jean-Luc Godard"'s legendary film is a double-header of sorts: it is both an insightful portrait of a band's creative process and a provocative dissection of Western counter culture.
"The Rolling Stones"' studio sessions follow the development of the song in the film's title. Beginning as a loose outline of a ballad, it acquires a rollicking groove and transforms by iterations into the Stones' signature tune that defined the sound of an era.
Composing the film's main narrative thread are several long, uninterrupted shots of "The Rolling Stones" in a sound studio, recording and rerecording 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 the 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, as if in an assembly line, or readying for an impending battle. 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 powerful 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, and no matter what she's asked, always answers "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, Marxist pamphlets for propaganda, and various men's magazines. Alternating with the shots of comic books, pinup magazines, and Marxist 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/her right arm in a Nazi salute, and leaves the store.

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Brian Jones and Mick Jagger
at the Olympic Sound Studios while making Jean Luc Godard's movie, June 1968

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.

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