Sympathy for the Devil

“There is only one way to be an intellectual revolutionary and that is to give up being an intellectual.”

 

The above quote I feel sums up this film quite well. Intercut with staged sequences concentrating on the idea of revolution during 1968 and footage of The Rolling Stones recording one of their most famous songs ever, Sympathy for the Devil, this film may be hard to watch for anyone who is only just a fan of the Rolling Stones. Like every other Godard film that I have watched, this film requires thought as to why he decided to connect these two events. The answer is in the lyrics.

The song is about the devil proclaiming with self-assurance all the nasty things that he did throughout history including the Kennedy assassination, the blitzkrieg, and killing the russian czars. The dramatic staging of pieces written by revolutionaries of the period rail against what they see as the devil, whether it be the white man, the government, the man in general or popular culture. But isn’t the Rolling Stones a part of popular culture, especially around this time when they were still relevant (zing!)? I refer back to the above quote. If you have to truly follow the writings of LeRoi Jones, Malcolm X or any other political figure, then you have to cut out popular culture totally. However popular culture still has something to say even if it might say that thing intellectually or obviously. In order to be a true revolutionary, you have to cut yourself off, you have to give up being an intellectual.

This film is not an easy watch. It is hard to figure out why Godard decides to put titles in with seemingly unidentifiable words in them. This film also has several sequences that the viewer thinking as to why he decides to put this in the film. It only becomes clear after seeing the whole film and reflecting on the piece for several hours. Something that a causal Rolling Stones fan might not want to do. Or maybe I am being too mean to Rolling Stones fans. It is not straight forward, so expect a lot of baffled pauses and re-watching.

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