Sympathy for the Devil (1968)

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Released 23-Oct-2006

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio
Alternative Version-One + One
Featurette-"Voices" Documentary
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Bande A Part, Bill Wyman's Blues Odessey, Jules & Jim
Trailer-Ronnie Wood-Far East Man
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1968
Running Time 97:11 (Case: 96)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (90:06) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Jean-Luc Godard
Studio
Distributor
Umbrella
Shock Entertainment
Starring Mick Jagger
Keith Richards
Brian Jones
Bill Wyman
Charlie Watts
Marianne Faithfull
Anita Pallenberg
Anne Wiazemsky
Iain Quarrier
Sean Lynch
Clifton Jones
Danny Daniels
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Mick Jagger
Keith Richards


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Jean-Luc Godard, in his first English language film, juxtaposes footage of The Rolling Stones recording the title song with some seemingly unrelated material exposing Western decadence and advocating black power.

    The footage of the Stones was shot in June 1968. Robert Kennedy had been assassinated earlier in the month. The previous month there had been student riots in Paris, which was echoed in other cities in Europe. In April Martin Luther King had been gunned down in Memphis, while television coverage of the Vietnam War was turning the tide of public opinion against US involvement. Long takes of the recording sessions are interrupted by various scenes of black activists amongst a pile of wrecked cars (relics from Weekend?) taking vengeance on white women or delivering their political testaments. The camera lingers on the covers of American magazines and books, while a woman in a hat and trench coat writes graffiti in which two words are joined to make a new word, like freudemocracy or sovietcong. A film star (played by Godard's wife Anne Wiazemsky) gives yes or no answers to loaded questions. Over all this we hear an unseen narrator reading lines from a pulp thriller in the style of the era, in which the character names are replaced by those of famous people (Stalin, Sinatra, Foster Dulles, Kosygin and so on).

    The overall effect is numbing - often to the buttocks. After nearly four decades it is virtually impossible to engage with the political aspects of the film, at least in its intended terms. The political issues the film tries to raise seem quaint, unsophisticated, even incomprehensible. If the film had any power in the climate of 1968, then that power has seriously diminished with the passing of time. There are a few elements which still work, such as the lengthy sequence in which the camera pans over rows of girlie magazines, science fiction books and other pulp material, which gives an insight into the (supposed) decadence of western culture.

    What is fascinating about this film, though, is the sequences of the Stones rehearsing and then recording Sympathy For the Devil. Long continuous takes from a crane pan across the musicians, who hardly speak but keep trying to find the final version of the song. At the end, when Jagger records the vocal track, this moves from being observational to almost voyeuristic, and is totally compelling.

    The movie was originally to be titled One + One. The producers presumably decided that they could make more money by using the song title, and much to Godard's consternation overlaid the song on two sequences near the end of the film. This caused Godard to disrupt a screening and even to punch the producer in the nose.

    This new release features not just the released film, but also the slightly shorter director's cut under the original title.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The original aspect ratio was 1.37:1.

    This is an excellent transfer with few issues of note. The transfer is bright and clear, quite sharp and with about as much detail as DVD is capable of. The scenes involving the band have a three-dimensional look to them. Colour is very good with lifelike flesh tones. There are some minor issues with shadow detail lacking, but these issues do not detract from enjoyment of the film.

    There are few film artefacts, with the occasional fleck or piece of dirt. At or around cuts there are slightly more flecks visible. There are no significant film to video artefacts.

    No subtitles are provided.

    The disc is dual-layered, with the layer change placed at 90:06 during the main feature.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The sole audio track is English Dolby Digital 2.0 and is mono.

    Like the video presentation, the sound is very good. Dialogue is mostly clear. There are some bits of dialogue that are a little hard to understand, but I get the impression that this is a result of the original recording, not of this transfer. This is where subtitles would have been helpful.

    The music is mainly that of the title song. The musical excerpts come across well, and while the dialogue has a digital edge to it the music does not suffer from this. There is a reasonable amount of bass for a mono recording.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio

    About two minutes of the title song is played with the static main menu.

One + One (96:35)

    There doesn't seem to be a great deal of difference between this director's cut and the released film. The main changes are that the title song is not imposed over the impromptu jam session in the studio near the end of the movie, and the end titles are in a different style. Also in the theatrical release there is a freeze frame at the very end which is shown in several different colours, again with the title music. According to some sources the original cut was some ten minutes longer than the theatrical release, but either this is not the case or the cut footage (more of the black power people) is no longer available.

Voices (43:14)

    This is a 1968 documentary by Richard Mordaunt about the making of the film, featuring interviews with Godard and containing some very 1960s sensibilities. It includes excerpts from the film and snippets from actors and the cinematographer.

Rolling Stones Scene Selection

    A menu which allows you to select the scenes featuring the band.

Theatrical Trailer (2:22)

    An original trailer.

Trailers (10:49)

    Additional related trailers for Umbrella releases of Band of Outsiders, Bill Wyman's Blues Odyssey, Jules and Jim and Ronnie Wood - Far East Man.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The UK Region 2 misses out on

    By comparison the Region 4 misses out on

    A marginal win for the Region 2 based on the extras, but I doubt whether anyone will be disappointed with Umbrella's effort.

Summary

    This is a combination of fascinating recording footage of The Rolling Stones and second-rate Godard political polemics, though second rate Godard is still better than most.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is good.

    A good extras package.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-NS9100ES, using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-HS60 LCD Projector projected to 80" screen. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD Player, Dolby Digital and DTS. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES for surrounds, Elektra Reference power amp for mains
SpeakersMain: B&W Nautilus 800; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Tannoy Revolution R3; Subwoofer: Richter Thor Mk IV

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