Performance

"Very Good"

Performance Review


Definitely not a masterpiece, but very far indeed from a complete failure, Nicholas Roeg and Donald Cammell's Performance is some of the best and the worst that the cultural ferment of the late 1960s has to offer, containing within its quite forward-looking surreality the seeds of its pretentious demise. Completed in 1968 but then put to slumber in the vaults for two years before Warner Bros. finally decided to unleash it upon the world, the film starts off as a sort of Brit gangster flick with Cahiers du Cinema aspirations before morphing into a free-form experiment in dualism and perspective.

It's not hard to see why the studio couldn't decide what to do with Performance, as it seems quite perfectly clear that not even the filmmakers knew what to do with it. Also, probably having wildly touted the feature film debut of Mick Jagger, the suits must have been none too happy at sitting through almost an hour of Cockney thugs spouting impenetrable slang in footage that has none too solid a grasp on A-B-C linearity. To make things worse (or better, depending on your point of view), when the Mick does appear, he's playing a cadaverous, moony visionary given to quoting Jorge Borges and having three-ways with the two continental Band-Aids sharing his falling-down London home. And there's not even any Rolling Stones on the soundtrack.

More so than your average interesting failure, there's quite a bit to admire in Performance, especially in its early scenes. James Fox plays Chas, a cold-blooded London mafia enforcer who seems to get a little too much of a kick out of his job, which he cheekily defines as "putting the frighteners on flash little twerps." In between bouts of raging sex with cabaret girls and getting his hands bloody on geezers who won't pay protection, Chas may be having a minor existential crisis. The film is fractured from the start, arrogantly eliding any attempt at narrative imposition, leaping all over the place and then doubling back on itself. Adding a further schizophrenic gloss, everyone is constantly looking into mirrors, watching themselves, being watched even as others are imitating and doubling them. Chas seems to enjoy the act of playing a gangster as much as anything, setting up the script's rather weak attempt to bridge its two poorly aligned halves, in other words, life is merely a "performance." You dig?

The soundtrack -- a masterful soundscape by the legendary Jack Nietzsche that features everyone from Ry Cooder to a pre-Pixar Randy Newman -- punctuates the bafflement with Moog-tweaked squeaks, bleeps and general electronic madness. That is, until Jagger, as faded rock icon Turner, appears, and then the slide guitars and gut-bucket blues come out in full force. Chas pops into Turner's decrepit house looking for a room to hide out in, as he's gone off and killed the wrong guy. Once inside, he's as well as a goner, falling prey to Turner's (supposed) evil charisma. With his pale and jagged face, plumped-out blood-red lips and flowing black locks, Turner has a look for sure, rock-star vampire. As Chas says to him, "You'll look funny when you're fifty."

The last half of the film is sheer nonsense, and less interesting nonsense than that which preceded it, full of the posturing, neo-pagan, theoretical amorality that Jagger and his crew were obsessed with at the time. As Chas falls under Turner's ludicrous spell, it resembles nothing more terrifying than an odd preamble to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which seems to have gotten much of its look and style (albeit in a more cut-rate fashion) from here. A particularly reality-busting segment near the end has Turner breaking into song ("Turner's Song," in fact, a ripe and raw Stones-sounding Jagger piece) somehow back at the lair frequented by Chas' partners in crime. It's a neatly shot number, having precious little to do with the rest of the film, but having at least provided visual and structural inspiration for what would later be known as the music video. It's a legacy, of a kind.



Performance

Facts and Figures

Run time: 105 mins

In Theaters: Friday 4th September 1970

Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures

Production compaines: Goodtimes Enterprises, Warner Bros.

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
Fresh: 26 Rotten: 5

IMDB: 7.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Producer: David Cammell, Sanford Lieberson

Starring: as Chas, as Turner, as Pherber, Michèle Breton as Lucy (as Michele Breton), Ann Sidney as Dana, John Bindon as Moody

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

The BFG Movie Review

The BFG Movie Review

For his adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic, Steven Spielberg reunited with screenwriter Melissa Mathison,...

Finding Dory Movie Review

Finding Dory Movie Review

It's been 13 years since the release of the Disney/Pixar hit Finding Nemo, and filmmaker...

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

This is where the Star Trek franchise officially shifts from thoughtful drama into thunderous action....

Ice Age: Collision Course Movie Review

Ice Age: Collision Course Movie Review

With its fifth feature-length adventure, this franchise continues its preposterous journey at full tilt. As...

Keanu Movie Review

Keanu Movie Review

An entertaining hybrid of satirical comedy and action thriller, this madcap adventure swerves wildly between...

Ghostbusters Movie Review

Ghostbusters Movie Review

It's been more than 30 years since the Ghostbusters first hit the big screen with...

Now You See Me 2 Movie Review

Now You See Me 2 Movie Review

While the original 2013 magical caper was a big hit, it's style-over-substance approach didn't exactly...

Advertisement
The Legend of Tarzan Movie Review

The Legend of Tarzan Movie Review

It's been nearly 30 years since the last live-action Tarzan movie, and yet it still...

Maggie's Plan Movie Review

Maggie's Plan Movie Review

A New York comedy with vivid characters and a contrived plot, this feels rather a...

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Movie Review

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Movie Review

Nearly 25 years after the sitcom debuted, Edina and Patsy arrive on the big screen...

Central Intelligence Movie Review

Central Intelligence Movie Review

After teaming up with Will Ferrell for Get Hard and Ice Cube for two Ride...

The Colony [Colonia] Movie Review

The Colony [Colonia] Movie Review

Based on a true story, this Chilean drama has a chilling edge to it that's...

Independence Day: Resurgence Movie Review

Independence Day: Resurgence Movie Review

Two decades is a long time to wait for a sequel, especially one starring much...

Elvis & Nixon Movie Review

Elvis & Nixon Movie Review

This movie is based on a real meeting between Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon in...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.