Tuesday, January 6, 2015

518. PERFORMANCE (1970)

Running Time: 105 minutes
Directed By: Donald Cammell, Nicholas Roeg
Written By: Donald Cammell
Main Cast: James Fox, Mick Jagger, Anita Pallenberg, Michele Breton, Ann Sidney
Click here to view the trailer


Two movies in to my day off, three movie binge and we come to a film starring Mick Jagger, which doesn't have me holding my breath that it'll be any good. Turns out, I'm right and this thing ends up boring me nearly as much as Black God, White Devil - my previous entry. Read on...

While I loved the cinematography in Performance, I had a hard time finding good shots on Google Images and eventually just gave up. However, I did find perhaps the best shot of the film, a neat little trick with a mirror being held by Anita Pallenberg.

After a disagreement with his boss, career criminal Chas (Fox) decides to go on the lam to save his own life, ensuring that his now former associates don't try to rub him out. Chas dyes his hair red (with red paint, as opposed to red hair dye) and overhears a man talking about a groovy basement apartment that's just gone on the market. Chas calls upon the vacant flat and finds that it's being rented by three bohemians: Turner (Jagger) and his two sexy, groupie girlfriends, Pherber (Pallenberg) and Lucy (Breton). At first, Turner doesn't want Chas there (the room is rented to Chas initially by Pherber), but finally caves and agrees to let him stay. The four engage in sexual conduct and soon, Chas' sexuality is drawn into question, as he begins cross dressing. There are hints that, at least parts of this movie are just a 'shroom induced high, but who really knows and in fact, who really cares. Later, even the identities of Turner and Chas come into question - who's who, what's what...yada, yada, yada...

THE BOOK claims that Performance sat on the shelf for two years while the production company decided what to do with it. I wish I had a time machine. I'd go back in time, to one of those days when Performance was sitting in "on the shelf" and make the execs' minds up for them: introduce Performance to the trash can and keep Mick Jagger out of the movies. I'm not against The Rolling Stones and anyone who's read my 1001 Albums... page will know that I really took to my first Stones album last summer ("baby, baby, baby you're out of time") but I'll stick to letting Jagger's big lips sing rock tunes into my ears instead of watching them deliver dialogue on a moving picture. Maybe I'm being too harsh on 'ol Mick, because the problem really wasn't him. It's just that this whole thing seemed like one big excuse to let Pallenberg, Breton and the two boys roll around half naked in a big bed, while nursing a drug induced high. A portrait of 60s life perhaps, which I'm cool with (I love the "make love not war" era, I really do!), it just didn't play out well here. It didn't help that there were times that I couldn't understand the actors' mumbling, sometimes nearing Benicio del Toro in Snatch levels (I'm looking at you James Fox). Despite not being able to understand him, I didn't mind Fox though: he had the look and he had the chops, he kept me interested.

It wasn't all bad, however. Despite hating the nauseatingly, jittery editing, I didn't mind the cinematography and picked out a handful of frames that were beautifully shot. The red paint early on added a splash of color and foreshadowed what would surely be a beautifully shot movie. Other than that, I can always dig a good criminal on the lam story and while this was a poor excuse for one, the character of Chas was a good one, that I'd loved to have seen under better circumstances (or better talent). Otherwise, this is one to take a pass on. I get why it's in THE BOOK - probably as a sort of a time capsule piece, to sort of capture the essence of the 60s: the birth of sex, drugs & rock 'n' roll. I get it, I really do. But that doesn't mean I have to like it and much as I wanted to, as much as I thought I would, I actually disliked it quite immensely. I'll give it a few points for trying to be different, for original cinematography and for representing an era that I wish I could've lived through, otherwise, all other points to be revoked.

RATING: 4/10  Can't go much higher than that and that's a shame. Some will probably really get into this though and more power to you, if so.


January 6, 2015  5:44pm


  1. You'd have thought, being more of this film's generation, being more of a Stones fan.. and maybe being British, I'd rate this a bit higher?
    No, 4 is more than generous...
    I now have to pop over to Amanda's and find something different to say on her page for the same film.. both of you having popped this one out at about the same time.

    1. I really expected more out of this: criminal on the lam, rock 'n' roll recluse...all sounds fairly decent, but what a letdown. I have Roeg's The Man Who Fell to Earth coming up very soon and am kind of scared now...

  2. I really, truly disliked this movie. It seems to go nowhere and for how simple the plot is, seems to just be stuck in neutral. Maybe I need to watch it again.

    1. Wow, does anyone like this movie? Calling all fans of this movie, please come and state your case, we're all interested in a positive viewpoint, I think.

  3. Celebration time- in a way - Andrew, Amanda, larry, myself.. all in agreement.

    I back up Andrews call to any closet 'Performance' fans to tell us what we are missing about it...


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