One Plus One

  • 1968
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Experimental

Ostensibly a rock documentary starring the Rolling Stones, ONE PLUS ONE (1968) proves to be much more--and much less--in the hands of director Jean-Luc Godard, who attempts to subvert the conventions of bourgeois filmmaking in this odd production, ultimately coming up short of his usual standard. The rock documentary portions of the film include a series...read more

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Ostensibly a rock documentary starring the Rolling Stones, ONE PLUS ONE (1968) proves to be much more--and much less--in the hands of director Jean-Luc Godard, who attempts to subvert the conventions of bourgeois filmmaking in this odd production, ultimately coming up short of his usual

standard.

The rock documentary portions of the film include a series of recording sessions with the Stones (Mick Jagger, Keith Richard, Brian Jones, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman), during which they painstakingly lay down the tracks for the song, "Sympathy for the Devil." Interspersed with these music segments

are scenes indirectly related to the Stones's song and to each other: in a car junkyard, armed black revolutionaries molest and kill white women while expounding on their radical political goals; in a pastoral setting, "Eve Democracy" (Anne Wiazemsky) answers a film documentarian's questions about

art, drugs, sex, war, and technology; in a bookstore, a Fascist leader reads from Hitler's Mein Kampf, while instructing customers to strike his Marxist prisoners.

Other visual and aural fragments break up the music: a narrator (Sean Lynch) reads from a porno-political novel; and Anna Wiazemsky defaces windows, cars, and billboards with political slogans (e.g. "Cinemarxism" and "SoVietcong"). In the final scene, set on a beach, an actress playing an armed

female revolutionary is shot and killed, landing on a camera boom and lifted toward the sky.

In fairness to Godard, ONE PLUS ONE is not entirely the film he wanted to make. The film was initially conceived with a narrative about a woman's involvement with two men, a neo-Fascist and a Black Power militant. Later, Godard himself chose to dispense with all traces of storytelling, instead

deconstructing the sounds and images he had filmed; but his decision created friction with producer Iain Quarrier, who retitled the film SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL and, against Godard's wishes, allowed a complete version of "Sympathy for the Devil" to play over the closing shot. (Godard's cut of the

film did remain in distribution throughout the world, however, causing much confusion in art houses featuring festivals of his work. The "concluded" cut of the film was the one that eventually wound up on US home video.)

The use of the whole song in the cut titled SYMPATHY... certainly undermines the message Godard attempted to send equating the fragmentary nature of the recording session with the disparate characteristics of revolution. Yet, even the Godard "cut" of the film has trouble moving beyond the crude

political vaudeville show that he has so unimaginatively staged. Compared to the twin peak masterworks he had made in 1967, WEEKEND and TWO OR THREE THINGS I KNOW ABOUT HER, ONE PLUS ONE is devoid of any special resonance, politically or artistically. (Ironically, while WEEKEND may be too

entertaining for its own left-wing political good, ONE PLUS ONE isn't entertaining at all.)

Even though Godard called it his "last bourgeois film" (symbolized by the poetic final shot of the dead actress-revolutionary on the boom), the film belongs to the beginning of Godard's short-lived effort to make purely political tracts. Yet, the politics are as muddled as the art is

(deliberately?) amateurish. If anything, the car junkyard scenes reaffirm the worst stereotypical notions of blacks and/or revolutionaries; and the emphasis on pornography in the bookstore and the narrator's book readings create a disturbingly sexist undercurrent (when the reverse was probably

intended). About the only figures to emerge unscathed by this meditative mess are the Stones; Jagger even tweaks Godard a bit, speaking in French at one point, and threatening to sing "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" at another. Fans may not appreciate the theoretical excesses and disruptions, but

they will like seeing and hearing the group performing in their nonchalant prime. (Violence, adult situations, profanity.)

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Ostensibly a rock documentary starring the Rolling Stones, ONE PLUS ONE (1968) proves to be much more--and much less--in the hands of director Jean-Luc Godard, who attempts to subvert the conventions of bourgeois filmmaking in this odd production, ultimate… (more)

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