Performance (1970) Directed by Donald Cammell & Nicolas Roeg

Sometimes it's simply not the right moment to watch something. This was the case with me and Performance. Mick Jagger annoyed me well before he appeared in the film with his spray painting and his wardrobe. And in the end he annoyed me a lot less than what happened before his face turned up. The whole hour-long drag about how this gangster man (James Fox) messes up his affairs was tedious. That's all. So what about the blue collar accents and the truths about English culture in the 1960s? I was bored.

Then we get to the hippie part. I just read a long Rolling Stones interview in the latest Uncut magazine. Anita was with Keith and they had a heroin habit. Who knows if Mick was any different, but he doesn't want to remember that stuff now. I guess he is loosing his memory. Apparently Keith was not so happy about Anita doing Performance (confirmed by Anita in a little making-of doc on the DVD). While watching the movie, I can see just why. The Rolling Stones are a scary machine of upper class rock'n'roll.

Surface is content. Surface is all there is and I love it. But in this second half of Performance I suddenly find myself bothered by this notion. The director injects some high-brow philosophy in there, Anita gets the needle in her bum and then there are the sex scenes and the mushrooms.
Being lost in the plenty. I was not entertained.

The best parts of this film are the naked scenes. Maybe I should have been watching porn instead.

Nick :
This film gained legendary status when I was growing up, mainly due to the fact that no one had ever seen it. Mick Jagger, Anita Pallenberg, graphic violent sex, , drugs and 60's London. It sounds exciting, it was a movie I'd read much about. It wasn't on video and TV (I don't think the film aired on British TV till the 90's). So, the legend grew. Of course, it's counter culture vs the straight guys, where the boundaries blur. Identity is the riddle, who is who, what is happening and WOW! aren't they decadent and kinky.

James Fox (officially the most underrated British actor of the 60's), plays gangster Chas, a heavy, who sorts people out. When he goes a step too far and kills someone he shouldn't, he goes on the run from his organized crime buddies. He ends up renting a room in a run down mansion in Notting Hill which reclusive rock star Turner (Jagger) owns. Turner, suspicious that Chaz isn't the juggler he claims to be but is on the run and looking for refuge, engages in mind games with Chaz to find out who he really is.

Pallenberg plays Pherber who along with Lucy (Michele Breton) live in the house with Turner, his bed buddies and worshipers. Pallenberg's over sexed drug addict seriously pissed off boyfriend Keith Richards at the time, all those semi-naked scenes with Mick probably did the trick. Performance also boasts the greatest Mick Jagger solo song ( A Message From Turner) and the accompanying scene is great fun. Jagger is playing himself , he comes across as aloof and pretty. Roeg would use musicians to good effect in his later films (Man Who Fell To Earth, Bad Timing). Warner Bros. who financed the film were appalled. The film languished for two years without a release.

Performance is littered with fast cuts and secret messages and visual indicators as to what's going on, which only reveal themselves after repeated viewing. Even then it offers no easy explanations or conclusions. Controversial is often used to describe this film. I'm not so sure. It's very strange, nothing in cinema is like it. It looks great, Roeg's eye for detail is amazing. It's an original film, still shocking in it's casual attitude to violence and sex and very watchable. It's two films in one scenario causes confusion and could be off putting. Don't be, Performance is an antidote to all the free love hippy bollocks that was emanating out of America at this time. It's the dark side of the 60's, it' s a bad trip, dangerous and ultimately, the legend is deserved.


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