Home / The Mondo Mugwump Letters: Sympathy For The Devil

The Mondo Mugwump Letters: Sympathy For The Devil

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The epistolary musings of Blogcritics Aaron Fleming, of Generic Mugwump, and The Duke De Mondo, of Mondo Irlando, presented at regular intervals by way of appeasing scholars of the popular culture and also minimizing the profits of possible paramilitary-linked bootleggers.

Matters relating to Sympathy For The Devil.

The Duke De Mondo Writes To Aaron Fleming;

Dear Aaron

I write to you for to relate the details of a most peculiar encounter done rattled the timbers o' Wednesday past something altogether shocking. I can scarcely believe it myself, truth be told, and would do no such thing, as it happens, were it not for my impeccable standing in the church. No man who attends his house of worship with such regularity and with such a sense of pride and evangelical fervor could e'er be accused of concocting a tale the likes of which I will recount herein.

Now, what happened was this;

On the Wednesday evening in question I had made my way to the rectory for an hour or two's worth o' modest cuisine and grand chat, and all at the behest of a certain Reverend Willy Phillips, a most charming individual, all being told.

Sat there by the hearth in the front room, myself and the minister passed forty-six or forty-nine minutes exchanging this tale or that concerning one or the other nights of the previous week, and what we might have gotten up to, and who might've joined us and where we might've poked one another, weather permitting. Just under an hour of this, says I, afore Phillips leaps to his feet and gets to flailing the arms in the throes o' a sore savage kerfuffle o' the brain-wax.

"Dear Lord!" says he, "I've just remembered!"

Turned out, Phillips was at that very moment supposed to be present at a highly important appointment arranged sixteen days hitherto, and could stand on this carpet not a second longer, lest his peers curse him raw for all the unobliging bastards o' the day and night and noontide.

Apologizing no end, for he is a man stacked to the backs o' the balls with none but the finest of manners, he suggested I might instead like to spend the evening in the company of his cousin, a woman who had moved to Barcelona three years back, but who had returned to the village a fortnight past for reasons of a family grievance.

"By Luther's knob" said I, "There's no reason to apologize nor to foist me upon your kin by way of any sorta recompense. I've no wish to put the girl out."

"Not at all" said he, "Sure for Jesus sakes she's got bugger all else to do."

Owing to how insistent he was, for this reason I made my way to the inn wherein the lass in question was staying.

What I can tell you, dear friend, is that I had some trouble believing that this most elegant, beautiful of women was in any way related to that Minister, a fellow whom, whilst agreeable as a cupboard-load o' orgasms, is nonetheless a right rancid bugger insofar as any kind of physiological criteria might be concerned. But not this woman, no.

Victoria, for that is her name, she bid me welcome, and proceeded to get ninety sortsa wild on an amalgam o' poitin and Benzedrine concocted, so she informed me, by a friend of hers from the former Soviet Union.

"It tastes like Bach" she said, and I nodded, and I said about my Diet Coke was very nice also.

Now, all of this is fantastical enough in itself, but what elevates the whole scenario to the realms of the most deranged o' delirious fancies is what followed far side o' the second or third hour in her presence.

Dimming the lamp by the bedside she asked me, she said "Tell me, are you a fan of the cinema?"

"As a tool for the distribution of film" I mused, "It's almost thrice as good as the novel and only slightly behind Broadband Internet."

"Do you want to see a film" she asks?

I shrugged. "Sure" says I, hoping it might be Monster House or maybe The Terror Of Tiny Town, about midget cowboys in the olden days.

"Me too."

So saying, y'unnerstann, she disrobes, stood afore me naked as the drunken Noah lain spread-eagle front his youngsters.

It would be fair to say I found the whole affair somewhat titillating, but late my tit none, she all but said, for what I have to offer is not filth but a film by Jean-Luc Godard about The Rolling Stones sit around writing a song and some Black Panthers read out loud from paperbacks concerning Blues and Ragtime and a fella sells pornographic magazines for the price o' a slap to the face o' a long-haired duo all bleeding and bandaged and bearded.

Perched on the edge of her bed she parted her thighs. "Look here" she says, gesturing to yon most celestial hidey-hole.

What I saw, old chum, it near pickled the teeth pink in my skull.

There, on the crest o' the labia, a tiny screen was visible, and upon that screen an image projected from behind, from somewheres close to the cervix I dare say.

By leaning to the left-hand side Victoria set the image in motion, and soon, with the vulva glowing round about, I was watching Sympathy For The Devil by that aforementioned Frenchman flickerin' from twixt her legs.

Victoria, she explained it all to me thus;

"I woke up one morning when I was twelve or thirteen and found that my stomach had knotted itself in six as I had slept. Believing it to be the work of the devil I contacted my cousin, Reverend Phillips, who advised me, in turn, to instead see the doctor, for it was most likely the beginnings of menstruation, rather than the doings of any diabolical entity of any kind."

The doctor, he asked if any blood had appeared on her undergarments in synch with these pains and prangings, to which Victoria replied no, but something had appeared. Not blood, but something.

Tiny chards not unlike iron fillings had been dripping and dropping with great aplomb from out her hoo-hah for much of the six or seven days theretofore. The doctor, after having received enough of these items for to examine thoroughly under laboratory conditions, he appeared at Victoria's door later that evening in a maniacal fuss with regards the nature of the substance.

"What these are", he explained, "are minute strips of celluloid. This one here, for example, contains a scene deleted from Diary Of A Chambermaid, and this…"

He opened his palm to reveal a cluster of similar items.

"…This is the opening of Space Is The Place, starring Sun Ra."

"Well I'll be buggered tartan" said Victoria. "I've always wanted to see that."

For whatever reason, in addition to the fuzz and the fluid and the general hormonal bluster a young lass might expect in adolescence, in addition to this, says I, a small cinema had formed in the confines of Victoria's vagina.

The film being screened therein would change once a month, in accordance with the habits of any regular menstrual cycle. "Most times I hardly notice" she explains, "And only really get cramps or what have you when something shite is being shown."

She was in bed for a week, she says, when Paul Haggis' Crash appeared.

Now, as I said, the flick we enjoyed that evening was Godard's 1968 sort-of-documentary concerning The Stones writing a song, although I forget which one (possibly "Let It Be") and in-between all this, yes, a series of bizarre vignettes;

Black Panthers wander back and forth across a junkyard carrying machine guns and radical literature and a couple white ladies in dressing gowns.

A woman called Eve Democracy is interviewed at length by a fella in a forest, he mouthing philosophical, sociological, political statements, she replying "Yes" or "No" as needs be.

A man reads from a pulp paperback novel concerning John Birch's daughter getting rodgered blind and something to do with Stalin and a bit about Che Guevara's corpse.

And so on and so forth.


Sympathy For The Devil (we didn't see Godard's preferred, slightly different cut, One Plus One, although Victoria tells me of a man in Krakow has it screening of occasion on his right testicle) is a peculiar fucker of a thing, I can tell you that. It is by turns beautiful and ghastly and brilliant and abominable and exhilarating and interminable. For every glorious shot of a woman raised on a camera crane towards the swell of the heavens, or of the city of London throbbing with revolutionary vigour, for each of these delights there exists a dozen shots of Keith Richard aimlessly plucking a bass string or Mick Jagger staring at his feet.

By intercutting (and in some cases overlapping) the creation of this particular "rock" ditty with those almost Bunuel-esque sketches, each imbued with this or that strain of leftist political discourse, Jean Boy Godard seems to be either drawing a parallel between Art and Politics or illustrating some dichotomy.

It's never overtly clear what his thoughts on the matter, or on anything, might be.

The real radicals, the flick does seem to suggest, and one would surely be hard pressed to contradict it, are the ones out there spraying Freudemocracy or Cinemarx on parked cars and billboards, the ones talking about things as a precursor to doing things (shooting folks, being one particular Doing Thing that gets explored herein) as opposed to talking about things because it keeps them from having to do anything, and whilst any amount of cultural import is flung t'wards the musicians and the writers and the filmmakers, what the hell are they really doing, tell me now, if not just sitting around for hours banging some bongo or other in pursuit o' a melody does no real good for anyone but themselves?

(Mind you, dear pal, we are dealing with the apolitical [musicologically speaking] Rolling Stones. Had Goddard made a film about Billy Bragg or Propaghandi or The Bay City Rollers, chances are he would've reached a different conclusion.)

(Although, of course, the recent Stones record is, by all accounts, devastatingly anti-Bush. That Bush. Ooh, he's a bad 'un.)

The point of the film, I would go so far as to suggest, is that it is pointless, in so far as the A, B, C's of the narrative might be concerned. It serves to promote thought and banter and debate, but nothing much else. The hilarious irony of it all is that, when Victoria closed her legs, what we debated was the film, and scarcely mentioned the rhetoric.

"What was he trying to do?"

"Does it mean this or that…?"

"Was he bored with filmmaking?"

In the alternate version, One Plus One, Godard eliminates the finished song from the final credits, which makes some sort of sense, since it's not a film about the song, it's about a period, y'unnerstann, and is less concerned with The Rolling Stones than it is with the folks who buy their records, or at least some of them, the ones with something to say about totalitarianism, most likely. It makes sense also on account of it's a film about transition, from this point to that, but that itself exists in a time of uncertainty, when no-one much knows if it's gonna head one way or the other. As the rest of the threads are left in flux, so too should be the fate of that tune about the devil.

Art vs. Life and what not.

"As a film" says Victoria, "It makes for a great synopsis."

And with that she reached for her dress.

I will leave you to ponder these concerns, dear friend, and I would ask if you have encountered the picture in question, and if so, was it via a screening of a similarly uteral nature, or some other means?

I hope all is well, and also, could you ask Gertrude to refrain from cancelling my subscriptions to magazines I haven't yet had time to subscribe to.

Your friend

Duke De Mondo

Aaron Fleming writes to The Duke De Mondo;

Dear Duke De Mondo

I thank you longingly, old friend, for your educative and gratifying letter. It reached me in one wholesome burst of climatic pleasure, one for which my physiology had long yearned for. Never had I contemplated such an apt use of said organ, surely it is the best non-sexual, non-Pog related application of the female genitalia that I have ever heard tell of.

It's via the quill of coincidence that this letter trundles from my mind to the page and subsequently your senses, for I have indeed recently experienced the film of which you write. And, indeed, the circumstances surrounding the viewing were of an unusual variety. Allow me now to recount the happening that happened to happen to me only last weekend.

Following my exercises in post-colonial pretension in the South Americas, I returned to the mansion on the heath, much depleted of sustenance and holding a bowel-load of the finest of Amazonian cuisine. A hasty sprint to the lavatory later, and I was unpacking the various crates of belongings I had lugged around that equatorial squalor. For the occasional tweed jacket I flung out, I had three or four linen pinafores browned by tropical grime, or three or four sweater vests half-digested by a bunch of dirty bastard moths!

Luckily the presents I had painstakingly picked off the shelves of the port gift-shop had remained uncorrupted by the travails of my lengthy journey. The house staff took these alms with much rejoice. How I enjoyed watching their little frowns transmute into grins when their master issued forth such vibrant altruism. Those Copacabana snow-globes will forever bring those maids and groundsmen into an orgiastic frenzy at the thought of the sincere generosity of he who gifted them such a luxury.

(Let me take this moment to detour slightly from the on-going regale to say that your import copy of Agharta sits on my mantel awaiting collection.)

It was a Saturday evening and I had spent the entire afternoon scrubbing the stains out of my khakis, so I was weary and tiresome. I informed the maid of my intention to retire to slumber for the night, then proceeded northwards to the master bedroom. Once there, I found the last of my woollen neckties spread upon the bed-sheeting. Obstructing my anticipated sleep, I moved to transfer them to the closet. When I angled myself down to the woollen confluence, and made the requisite motions to lift their selves, a massive moth exploded from the cavalcade of fabric; fabric that it had been making a meal out of. It orbited the room a few times before taxiing to a halt on the cranium of an ancient statuette I had pilfered from a monastery near the Peruvian border. The statuette was in the form of a simian, a naturalistic percept of our evolutionary cousins lovingly constructed with eyes set on detail. Alas, I purloined it due to its likeness to Ron Perlman.

But anyway, as this moth stared at myself from its mammalian ledge, I ran towards it, hoping to put a end to this absurdity, and in some small, petty respect, I wished to revenge the damage done to my garments. As I clasped it into my hands, the statuette began to glow a vivacious verdant, and I felt a warm smoke in the air. Suddenly a dissolve of the mind, the liquefaction of perception, and I found myself occupying the body of the vermin hitherto my nemesis.

What had happened was this; the mystical powers of the Perlman Stone (as I later named it) had become reactivated by the moth's metatarsus fondling its pate, and it thusly, in an ode to the '50s B-movie, swapped our bodies around.

So, I was flying about the room in the body of the moth, whilst at the same time I watched the moth jump about in my body. Understandably the first thing it did was run into the strobe-lit en-suite and begin to eat my washcloths. I was only minimally miffed by this ruination in the bathroom, as it allowed me time to gather my thoughts. Exiting the bedroom, I made flight down the staircase, and into the observatory I went.

In here was my maid. She was sprawled on the sofa, legs akimbo. Facing her was a glowing flat-screen, on which the Interpol messages of copyright threat were just ending. Then started a film of some sort. Wishing not to interrupt the maid's watching duties, I took up a position on a nearby hardback copy of Chomsky's Necessary Illusions, and then proceeded to participate in the screening.

The film she was watching was none other than Sympathy for the Devil.

It is indeed a peculiar flick, as you so rightly sketch. Irregular narrative arrangements compositing imagery of The Stones sitting about a studio tweaking and orchestrating, with the radical and anarchical sanctimony of leftist activism; it is difficult to pin down what exactly is the intention here. The apolitical stance of the band only adds to the confusion.

Perhaps it's an amalgamation; the purposeful bringing together of dissimilar, and perchance contrasting, imagery of a time? Certainly the fact that the band reside comfortably insulated from the proletariat theorizing outside leads one to consider this.

Or maybe it's a deliberate juxtaposition of those two opposites? Showcasing the two realities of a time; if one were to wish to simplify an epoch to such an extent.

Maybe even it's nothing beyond a representation of an era? A snapshot of a zeitgeist. And why not make use of some of the most popular musical forms of that day? Makes sense to me. Although, if this may be the case, it'd have to be perceived as an artistic illustration, caricatured and creatively depicted. The chieftains of realism need not burrow too deeply here.

Funnily enough, I would have assumed that I'd find more interesting attraction in the political meandering flowing through the film, rather than the mundane musicological tasks, what with my interest for the Rolling Stones not extending far beyond "Paint It Black". But no, I actually found much enjoyment viewing the Mick Jaggers and Keith Richards noodling their instruments and attempting to assemble their song into a finished form. Godard especially excelled in this area, his ubiquitous floating camera subtly captures a band at work; the only allusion to the Frenchman and his crew coming when Jagger offers a "Ca va?" to the camera, which is met with no apparent reply.

It could be that previous experience with such Godard brilliance as Weekend and La Chinoise, has eroded the potential impression that the political content would have given me. The walk in the woods scene, where Eve Democracy is interviewed, giving only monosyllabic answers to the interviewer's questions, reminds me of both aforementioned films; geographically with regards the former, and the political content with regards the latter. The obtuse essaying in this scene is enjoyable, if not so cryptic as to be useless to those viewers looking for a clear statement of intent.

In the end, Godard annihilates the film world in quite a wonderful toppling of filmic walls. First, the Stones' studio world is penetrated by a rogue sound-mike, and then a rogue Godard, proffering cigarettes to the lads on the job. And the last scene is enigmatically set on a beach, where Eve Democracy runs around for a while, trampling all over the dolly track, then, following a faux-death, being situated on the camera crane. All is rather fun, if not deficient of clarity.

And therein lies the problem with Godard, he has a tendency to bat away interpretation, setting up a wall impenetrable to the daggers of analysis and elucidation.

It would belie Godard's inherent hostility to convention were he to have chosen a musical subject whose tunes are rife with references to Bolshevism and whatnot. It seems that the awkward combination of themes is only something to be welcomed by the figurehead of the French New wave. "Gimme all the asymmetries you can accumulate," he says, "and I'll give ye some artistic construct of it." "Fair enough," says I to Godard.

Personally I'd like to see phenomenological ontology united with bread-making.

All criticisms notwithstanding, the film still remains a mildly enjoyable hark back to political radicalism in the late 60s as it was observed at the time. Or at least a hark back to Godard's thematic interweaving, various didacticism sieved through his mind, and fed through to the world in a gush of arty flourishes.

After the film, I flew off into the ambit of the maid. Instantly she assessed the situation and knew it was her righteous master hovering over her head, and that he had been wronged by his own interest in antiques. She was able to apprehend my moth-minded body, and throw us both upon the mercy of the Perlman Stone. It's glowing features took a devil-less sympathy for our quandary, and magically reversed the initial reversal.

I am now back to my old being, that moth has since been whacked some dozen-odd times with a copy of The Guardian, and the maid has received a pay increase agreeable with inflation. But yet, I cannot still remove the taste of beach-towels from my mouth. If you know of a suitable mouthwash available at a low price, I would be forever grateful if you could pass the recommendation on to me.

Your friend,

Aaron Fleming

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About The Duke

  • I always knew cinema was a lifeblood of sorts, but I never expected it literally.

    Awesome stuff, as always. I’m never quite sure what to make of Godard, but rarely are his films not worth a look at least.

  • I agree Steve, Godard’s films are always at least somewhat interesting, even though some are much better than others; just compare Alphaville with The Riflemen.

    And thanks!

  • Should I comment on the cinematic hoo hah or the Fleming moth? Too hard to chooose, so I’ll just say I this very noon picked up a copy of Alphaville and look forward to its cinematic graces.

    Brillians stuff gents, absolutely brilliant.

  • Alphaville is genius Mat, you’ll love it!

  • -E

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