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One+One / Sympathy for the Devil (1968) a rock film by Jean-Luc Godard

Meet "Sympathy for the Devil" - one of the most frustrating and fascinating rock films in the history of cinema.

One+One / Sympathy for the Devil (1968 film)

The silent opening credits end, and we are immediately transported to the legendary Olympic Studios in London. It's June 1968, and the Rolling Stones are creating a new track that will become legendary on the band's seventh studio album, Beggars Banquet. All participants are dressed in bright, slightly freaky clothes: colorful trousers, pink boots, crazy shirts. However, they did not come together to shock the audience.

They are changing show business…

Jean-Luc Godard is preparing to shoot with the band. Photo: Keystone Futures
Jean-Luc Godard is preparing to shoot with the band. Photo: Keystone Futures

There's no cliched self-conscious posing, no hidden camera play, and no indication at all that the band knows they're being filmed. All the members – Mick Jagger, Brian Jones and Keith Richards-are completely focused on their musical brainchild, ignoring external stimuli. The first three acoustic chords are heard, and we, the audience, witness how the future hit is born. «Please let me introduce myself»Mick hums softly, «I’m a man of wealth and taste…».

Yes – this is the song! We see the Rolling Stones at perhaps the most important and crucial moment of their first decade, just as they are preparing to emerge from a year filled with drugs, complicated relationships, and psychedelic tracks. More than that! We are witnessing one of the most significant events in the music world – the creation of the song "Sympathy for the Devil". This song is destined to become the main one in the Rolling Stones ' creative work, elevating them to a rock and roll pedestal, defining their "dark" reputation.

The shaggy gentlemen that appear before us are not at all rock gods gushing with genius, but hardworking musicians who get together and hone their skills through trial and error, seeking to find magic and inspiration in everyday life.

Rolling Stones in Hyde Park
Rolling Stones in Hyde Park

The birth of a song in chaos…

As Keith starts strumming "Black Beauty" on his Les Paul, his fingers suddenly find what will later form the basis of the guitar solo for the song "Black Beauty". «Sympathy». On his face, you can see genuine delight – here it is, the musical feature that he has been looking for for so long.

And for Rolling Stones fans, it's a pure thrill to see and hear their idol create a legendary, instantly recognizable tune.

Mick Jagger in a London recording studio during the filming of Jean-Luc Godard's Sympathy for the Devil
Mick Jagger in a London recording studio during the filming of Jean-Luc Godard's Sympathy for the Devil

Then, long before the goosebumps caused by this moment begin to pass, the action of the film will change location – from a comfortable studio we are transferred to an unattractive London dump. Here, Black Panther revolutionaries read aloud the works of Eldridge Cleaver and Amiri Barak as they prepare for the massacre of three captive white women.

Meet the «Sympathy for the Devil» - one of the most disappointing and fascinating rock films in the history of cinema. Over the next hour and a half, you'll see intimate footage of the Rolling Stones' creative process, as well as Jean-Luc Godard's chaotic productions of revolutions, devastating strikes and rallies. In an instant, we watch Charlie Watts jump into the groove to his drum set, and in the next scene, Anna Vyazemskaya, a popular actress and Godard's wife, appears before us, leaving paintings in the spirit of "Freidemocracy" and "Cinemax" on the walls of buildings and cars . You see the group surrounded by their close friends (including Anita Pallenberg and Marianne Faithfull) gathering around a microphone to record the immortal track "Hoo Hoo!" revolutionaries while its owner reads aloud Mein Kampf.

Thus, "Sympathy for the Devil" is not just a documentary about the work of the Rolling Stones. This is a sharp social project built on contrasts and contradictions.

Jean-Luc Godard (right) guides Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones during the filming of the documentary "Sympathy for the Devil "(aka "One Plus One")
Jean-Luc Godard (right) guides Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones during the filming of the documentary "Sympathy for the Devil "(aka "One Plus One")

"I just wanted to show something in the design"Godard later admitted in an interview with Rolling Stone in 1969. "To show that democracy, whatever it is, is very constructive. Not to break any established rules, of course, but just to say that we are against war, although we are not doing anything significant for peace and tranquility."

Reviews and criticism

The film was rather coldly received by critics, receiving mixed reviews. It was often called blatant and overly pretentious, referring to Tom Wolfe's quotes about "radical chic" - the romanticization of revolutionary movements among young people, motivated more by fashion than by real political or social convictions. Despite this re-release of "Sympathy for the Devil", showed that the dramatic side of the tape is still relevant, has the hallucinatory charm of the mentioned historical period.

One+One / Sympathy for the Devil (1968 film)
One+One / Sympathy for the Devil (1968 film)

"Until recently, I hadn't seen him on the big screen," admitted Tony Richmond, director of photography for Sympathy for the Devil, who oversaw the color grading of the restored tape. “And I have to say it's fantastic! I think this is the first and only time I'll be able to see the Rolling Stones in action. This film really shows how they write music!”.

Making a movie and writing music

It's amazing to watch the song evolve from "talking" blues to fiery Latin rock classics. But it's even more exciting to follow the crazy energy and dynamics that reigns between the Rolling Stones members in the studio. Keith, like a venerable pirate, cheerfully and fervently absorbs the energy of the room, transforming it into funky," prickly " guitar parts. Mick, who is moody and impatient, is annoyed by Charlie's inability to get into the percussive intro in time. And contrary to the prevailing accusations, that by the time of recording «Beggars Banquet» Brian has already become a ghostly shell of himself, and he looks pretty involved in the creation process «Sympathy».

“Being at that moment in the studio, I could honestly say that there were no disagreements between them!” later claimed Richmond, who worked with the Rolling Stones on Jumping Jack Flash and Child of the Moon. “They all seemed pretty happy and friendly towards each other. You can see it in the movie too - Brian and Keith share cigarettes, throw lighters to each other, just like buddies... If there was even the slightest tension, it was only when they were working on the drums. Mick was a little upset about Charlie, but that's it. That is, it was something like: “Come on, Charlie!”. And even that could hardly be called real tension. They were just… trying to record a track.”

The Rolling Stones record the hit "Sympathy for the Devil"
The Rolling Stones record the hit "Sympathy for the Devil"

Godard, a pioneer of the French new wave, initially wanted to create a film story about rock and revolution, unfolding around The Beatles – the largest and most influential group at that time. But when the legendary "Liverpool four" refused to shoot, he addressed the offer to the Rolling Stones. And, to be honest, their image was more like a director's idea. So, Mick Jagger was repeatedly harassed by the British police. He participated in marches and demonstrations against the Vietnam War, and drew inspiration for his future songs from revolutionary riots and movements.

Richmond recalled that the most difficult part of filming was predicting when the Rolling Stones would actually appear in the studio.

“We got there around six or seven in the evening, but the group could come at any time. Sometimes they showed up close to midnight, you know what that meant? That the rehearsal will last all night! The only thing we managed was the location of the musicians. We marked the positions of Mick, Keith, Brian and Charlie, lined up the lights, and that's it. It was strictly forbidden to disturb them between takes, ”he later recalled.

"As soon as the guys arrived at the studio, they immediately got involved in the work, and we started shooting. We were very quiet, always staying in the background. No one ever disturbed or disturbed them. We were invisible, and it was amazing!"

According to Richmond, it was much more difficult to shoot scenes outside of the rehearsal process. Free work without a detailed plan or scenario was carried out in a partisan style – without warnings and without permissions.

“We didn’t really have any script. And it drove everyone crazy!” Richmond sighed with a smile. “We had four or five days in London to shoot street footage. I then armed myself with a small hand-held camera. Together with Godard and his wife, we got into the car, and the driver simply drove us around until Jean-Luc shouted: “Stop!”. I went out, knelt down and filmed how Anna, who had run out after me, began to paint the walls. We didn't have any permits and the paint in her hands was real! I don’t even know why we weren’t arrested…”

Increasingly frustrated with Godard's improvisational approach, as well as his refusal to speak English, the project's producers, Michael Pearce and Ian Quarrier, eventually stripped the director of his voice rights. They renamed the picture, which completely infuriated him.

Autumn arrived, and the premiere of "Sympathy for the Devil"was planned for it.

The film was supposed to be shown at the London Film Festival

On the day of the show, Godard went to the theater, where he made a huge scandal. He shouted various threats, promising to arrange his own demonstration of the" ruthlessly cut " tape «One Plus One». Godard demanded that the audience return their tickets and go to watch the film with him in a nearby parking lot. The director still managed to find twenty ideological like-minded people, but the beginning of rain disrupted his plans.

"I was very disappointed with the group," Godard complained to a Rolling Stone correspondent in a 1969 interview. “They didn't even say it was a bad idea to add the completed version of their song to the end of the movie. I wrote to them but they didn't say anything. It was very unfair of them!”

This half-documentary remains a fairly important piece of work. Despite all the shortcomings and problems, the film has a huge value, if only because it captures the last moments when the Rolling Stone era was still associated with Brian Jones.

If you've ever dreamed of traveling back in time to attend a Rolling Stone rehearsal with their legendary lineup, "Sympathy for the Devil" is your direct ticket to 1968.

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