A documentary with scenes alternating between the Rolling Stones rehearsing the title track, and political skits focusing on western counter-culture. — Genre: Music Video - Pop/Rock — Rating: NR — Release Date: 21-OCT-2003 — ... more »Media Type: DVD« less
"A rarely screened late 60's curio, "Sympathy For The Devil" looms larger as a legend in the minds of those who have namechecked it over the years than as a bonifide "classic". While it's great to have it available on DVD, 35 years passing have not been kind to the film's scattershot approach. Director Jean-Luc Goddard is not exactly famous for linear narrative, so it's not like I was expecting "ABBA: The Movie", but I found this film rough going all the same. The premise: Goddard was given permission to film the Stones working in the studio on thier classic "Sympathy For The Devil". He took this footage and intercut it with Black Panthers spouting political rhetoric and conducting "guerilla theater" vignettes about the "Revolution". While I think we "get" the analogy between the seeds of creativity (the Stones methodically building the song in the studio) and the seeds of Revolution (being sown in the streets), the repetitive nature of the dated rhetoric wears out its welcome quickly. This does leave one pondering as to whom, exactly, the film is for. Music fans will probably find the interruptions annoying; history buffs studying 60's politics will likely find the Stones superfluous. Personally, I found the beautifully shot Stones footage enough to warrant hanging on to my copy. If you're looking for a classic 60's MUSIC film with the Stones, check out "Gimme Shelter" instead. If you're looking for a time capsule of 60's POLITICS, try "Medium Cool" or "Putney Swope". Unfortunately, while "Sympathy" contains a good amount of both,it never successfully connects with either music OR politics."
The Creative Process (sort of) and Rock Icons In Their Youth
Clare Quilty | a little pad in hawaii | 12/29/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In many ways, this film is as valuable an account of the Stones and their world and music as Stanley Booth's amazing memoir/biography "The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones." And Booth's book, despite the cheesy, alternate title (it was originally called "Dance With The Devil") is, in itself, a shrewd and articulate literary counterpart to "Gimme Shelter." But "Sympathy" is a more concentrated glimpse and its focus is on the progression and recording of the title song is, to a fan anyway, fascinating.One thing I find interesting is the many directions this song could've taken. One version is a chilled out, slowed down samba. Another has an ethereal Nicky Hopkins organ melody. And apparently, the line that originally went, "I shouted out 'who killed Kennedy'" had to be changed to "who killed the Kennedys" because Robert Kennedy was assassinated as they were working out the song.Other interesting aspects are the questions this film raises. How long a period does this session cover? A month? A week? Two days? Are we seeing the sessions in chronological order. Who are all the other people we see milling around while the Stones try to get something done. We're never told.Plus, it's just cool to see these guys when they were young, looking great and being as close to themselves as they can be with a camera in their face: Mick, waddling around and flubbing lines; Bill, looking like the boredest man in the world; Charlie focused and steady; Brian struggling to arrange a cigarette to smoke; and Keith, like a slim pirate, doing a jaunty step as he fiddles with what will eventually become "Sympathy's" razor-sharp solo.Many viewers take this film to task for the non-music related scenes that are interspersed with the studio sessions: short, verite riffs on celebrity, race, sex, literature, techonology. I actually liked these sections, though every single one of them goes on about twice as long as it should. However, these little glimpses outside the studio plant the movie in a particular zone (the end of swinging London as seen through Godard's lens) that give the entire piece a distinct, if consistently unreal, identity."
Utterly incomprehensible, but....
D. Hartley | 05/23/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Godard made "Sympathy for the Devil/One Plus One" shortly after the events of May '68, and is consequently one of his most oddball, revolutionary films ever. Fascinating footage of the Stones at work is cut with non-narrative scenes of black revolutionaries quoting Eldrige Cleaver, a porno bookstore owner reading from "Mein Kampf," an interview with a woman named Eve Democracy consisting entirely of yes/no questions, and a woman surreptitiously spray-painting slogans on parked cars, while voice-overs describing sexual situations involving Pope Paul, LBJ and other luminaries drone on the soundtrack. The film works best if you just shut your mind to reason and let it all wash over you. For die-hard Godard aficiandos or Stones fans proficient with the fast-forward button."
Godard in the revolutionary, anti-narrative phase...
Scott D. Cudmore | Toronto, Ontario Canada | 04/06/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I give this only 4 out of 5 stars only because this is not Godard's final cut of the film. I hate it when producers and studios feel they have the right to undermine what the director intended a film to be...so because of that, I can't give it a perfect rating. Anyhow, after Jean-Luc Godard made 'Weekend', he didn't really return to narrative until 1979. This is one of his early experimental works, and easily the most famous due to The Rolling Stones participation. But don't be fooled: this isn't a film about The Rolling Stones; not at all. This is a film for fans of the director, and perhaps Marxist left-wing politics. The typical Stones fan probably won't be too impressed by this film. I would recommend they pick up a different video on the band. The Rolling Stones place in this film serve mainly as metaphor, while Godard intercuts their recording session for the song 'Sympathy For the Devil' with several dramatic sequences involving a young revolutionary girl and a group of Black Panthers. The highlight of this picture for me is not the recording session with The Stones, but rather an incredible tracking shot around a garbage dump, while members of the Black Panther group read from various texts on different issues of colour, some of them completely absurd, while a group of young white women are escorted through the dump at gunpoint. This is incredibly wild, revolutionary filmmaking. More of a poem than a film. And always brilliant."
I found this film fascinating, despite its reputation....
Grigory's Girl | NYC | 07/19/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film has been unfairly maligned by many (Rolling Stones fans, Godard fans), but it's actually pretty good and absolutely fascinating at times. Godard's politics get in the way of his cinematic mastery at times, but overall I found this as good and as compulsively watchable as his classic films. One of the greatest things about this film (as others have noted here) is showing The Rolling Stones in their rawest state. This isn't a slick, MTV, reality style TV programme with lame interviews and an obsession with showing only the "fun times" while working. Godard shows (with his camera circling the studio in brilliantly filmed long takes) how absolutely TEDIOUS it is to make a record/CD/music. We see Jagger, Richards, Wyman, Watts (and studio musicians) obsess over the most minute details on how the song Sympathy for the Devil is going to sound. It's not like "hey, let's do the song", and one take later, they're done. There aren't any groupies, flashing lights, nothing. It's just The Stones making their music, and it shows the dedication that great musicians like The Rolling Stones put into their craft. It's also especially sad to see Brian Jones, who was pretty much "gone" at the time of this film. The Stones put him off in a corner (he looks like he's sitting in his own little box), and you can hear him strumming inaudibly. There's a microphone in front of him, but it obviously isn't on, and Jones doesn't seem to know. Jagger, Wyman, Richards, and Watts pretty much ignore him, and soldier on without him. Jones's drug use and alienation were at its zenith here, and he died shortly after these sessions. These sequences might be the most realistic depiction of rock musicians recording an album ever.
Godard intercuts a lot of political material in the film (this film was made during his generally abysmal "Maoist" period), but his framing (especially scenes shot at a junkyard) is classic Godard. Even though these scenes in the junkyard are with the Black Panthers and their rhetoric/dialogue are completely dated, dogmatic, and overly political, the scenes are still well shot and crafted. I never found the film boring, unlike some of Godard's other Maoist films like La Chinoise, which was REALLY boring. So if you're a Godard fan, or a Stones fan, you should see this film. It's really quite good, despite some of its politics."