Jean-Luc Godard’s One Plus One (AKA Sympathy for the Devil) contains fly-on-the-wall footage of The Rolling Stones in the studio during the 1968 Beggar’s Banquet recording sessions that yielded one of their most famous numbers, “Sympathy for the Devil.” The Stones footage is intercut with set pieces for his camera by Maoist-types and (apparent) Black Panthers who kidnap and kill a group of white women. A feminist is interrogated and at one point there is a reading from Mein Kampf in a bookshop and the customers walk out “Sieg Heiling.” It’s a mess, even by Godardian standards.
The bits with The Stones aside, One Plus One is a terribly boring film. I saw it in a London art-house cinema when I was seventeen and had I been, oh, I don’t know eighteen, I probably would have had the presence of mind to simply walk out. It’s not just a little boring, it’s an epic snoozefest (I should point out that I tend to love pretentious art films with Situationist elements, this one… not so much).
Godard stated many times throughout his long career his belief that Western culture needed to be destroyed, but he felt this could only be achieved by the rejection of intellectualism:
“There is only one way to be an intellectual revolutionary, and that is to give up being an intellectual”
Well, sure, but you can’t exactly go around boring people to death, either! There’s nothing revolutionary about being a bore, JLG…
One Plus One was such a financial disaster—it flopped even in France—that Iain Quarrier, the film’s producer, retitled it Sympathy for the Devil and added the completed song at the end. When Godard found out about this, he punched Quarrier in the face.
Amusingly, a DVD of this film was given away free with the purchase of a Sunday Times newspaper in Britain in 2006. I wonder what the average Sunday Times reader who bothered to pop the disc into their DVD player thought about Godard’s decidedly radical film?
Below, all the best bits and none of the nonsensical parts from Godard’s One Plus One
Via Open Culture