Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Performance (1970)

Performance, recently released on Region 2 DVD, is one of those rare movies that is very much of its time (1970) and yet isn’t dated at all. Its impact has not been diminished in the least by the passing of the years. It’s a movie about identity and performance, gender and sexuality. Chas (James Fox) is a South London gangster, a vicious hoodlum, who finds himself on the run. He goes to ground in a house inhabited by a former rock star (played Mick Jagger) and his two girlfriends. One of the girlfriends is played by Anita Pallenberg, the real-life girlfriend of Rolling Stones Mick Jones, Mick Jagger and Keith Richard (yes, all three). Chas isn’t scared of the toughest criminals, but he’s hopelessly out of his depth with the Peace and Love Generation. He finds himself even more out of his depth after dinner, a delicious mushroom dish with some rather unusual mushrooms. This movie was inspired by the writings of people like Borges and Burroughs, and benefits from some stunning Technicolor photography by Nicolas Roeg (who was both cinematographer and co-director). Roeg creates some fantastic images, and this is a movie in which images are at least as important as plot or character. James Fox is superb as Chas. Jagger is surprisingly effective as Turner, the ex-rock star. He can’t really act, but he has the right presence and the right androgynous sexuality, and he works remarkably well with James Fox. Anita Pallenberg (who co-wrote the script) also does well – like Jagger she suits the feel of the movie perfectly. Despite its ambiguities Performance is not really a confusing film, although it’s certainly a film that demands that the viewer should make his or her own interpretations of situations and events. The influence of this film on the later movies of Nic Roeg is extremely obvious. This is a truly great movie, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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