Sympathy for the Devil / One Plus One (1968)

Sympathy for the Devil / One Plus One (1968)

“Maybe the devil is God in exile.”

Clips of the Rolling Stones recording “Sympathy for the Devil” in London’s Olympic Studios are interspersed with scenes of Black Power activists in a junkyard, an adult bookstore with Maoist hostages, and a young peasant woman (Anne Wiazemsky) being interviewed in a meadow.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • African Americans
  • Documentary
  • Jean-Luc Godard Films
  • Rock ‘n Roll

The origin story of this avant garde pastiche film by Jean-Luc Godard (part fiction, part documentary, part staged readings of political texts) is that he went to England to make a documentary about abortion, only to have the Abortion Act of 1967 make this no longer such a hot topic — so he stayed there with the intention of filming either the Beatles or the Rolling Stones (and only the latter accepted). The result is hard to make any narrative sense of at all — though it’s not necessarily supposed to. Music lovers will likely enjoy all the scenes in which “Sympathy for the Devil” slowly emerges through plenty of creative trial and error:

… (though we never do hear the final song, at least not in Godard’s version of the film). Meanwhile, Godard fans will likely view all the weird interstitial material as simply part of his broader cinematic commentary on Marxism and revolution.

The prize for oddest sequence is a tie between a scene in a bookstore where Mein Kampf is being read out loud and patrons give a heil salute after making their purchase:

… and Wiazemsky wandering around a field followed by a film crew, answering either “yes” or “no” to a serious of questions designed for exactly such binary responses (“Do you think drugs are a spiritual form of gambling?”).

Is it worth spending more time analyzing this flick? Yes. No. I’m really not sure — though of course Godard fans will have a field day.

Note: Peary lists a total of 24 films by Godard (RIP) in GFTFF; I have 11 left to watch and review.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • An awesome title track song
  • Colorful cinematography

Must See?
No; this one is only must-see for Godard completists.


2 thoughts on “Sympathy for the Devil / One Plus One (1968)

  1. First viewing 3/31/22. Only for Godard fans, and maybe not even for them.

    More pretentious nonsense from the director. Seemingly made on the fly as Godard’s first English-language film, this doc intersperses Black Panther activity and ideology with – for some obscure reason – the Rolling Stones developing the song ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ to the point where it’s ready for recording.

    Most of the film is fairly sluggish but I did like this one line by a Panther member when he is asked about how his message could be communicated to white people: “That’s a difficult problem because, although [the white man] never learned to speak our language, we learned his.”

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