As a tribute to the late Nicholas Roeg who died in November 2018 we are screening his first feature film, co-directed with screenwriter Donald Cammell. Performance takes us into the psychedelic 1970s when hedonism was is at its height. When gangland criminal Chas [James Fox] goes to ground, taking refuge in a London basement next door to fading rock star Turner [Mick Jagger], he enters the counter-culture of the times.
Dir: Nicholas Roeg/Donald Cammell, UK, 105 mins, 1970
We are screening Performance as a tribute to the late director Nicholas Roeg (Don’t Look Now,1973; The Witches,1990; Bad Timing,1980), who passed away on November 23rd 2018, aged 90 years. The film was Roeg’s directorial debut, co-directing with Donald Cammell (Wild Side,1995; White of the Eye,1987). At the time of the its release, Roeg was already a veteran of the film industry, having started out as an editing apprentice in 1947 and working his way up to cinematographer in 1959, subsequently coming to the attention of David Lean in 1962 for his work on Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia.
The film starts out following notorious gangster Chas, played by James Fox (Sherlock Holmes, 2009; A Passage to India, 1984; Sexy Beast, 2000), trying to disguise himself and seeking refuge from the mob in the Borgesian labyrinth home of fading rock-star Turner, whom he meets by accident in a boarding house basement flat. Turner is played by none other than Rolling Stones’ front-man Mick Jagger (Ned Kelly, 1970; Laughter in the Dark, 1986; Freejack, 1992) in a stand-out role which commented on his own life and style, while reinforcing his stage image without copying it.
Rumour has it that James Fox had a nervous breakdown on set whilst shooting the film, similar to the way in which Chas breaks down as his kaleidoscopic nightmare progresses, swapping characters, drugs, women and finally identities, with Turner. (This might have been caused by Jagger and Anita Pallenberg plying Fox with drugs and apparently tormenting him on set.)
Acknowledgements: IMDb, BBCi, Rough Guide to Gangster Movies, derekwinnert.com
“[…] it’s a shocking crime thriller, a time-capsule of Swinging ’60s London and a fizzy intellectual head-trip, all whisked into one astonishing film” Jonathan Crocker, BBCi
- Well, that was trippy! With its creative execution, Performance worked well not only as a period piece but as a (seminal) landmark for gritty British gangster cinema.
- It still retained its power, though parts of it remain baffling. Strong visual imagery but still a number of ’60s-style longueurs!
- Enigmatic in 1970 and just as enigmatic in 2019! – but there is something about it …. I still watch it from time to time at home.
- Anarchic times! Passed me by, somehow. Had a ‘Regency’ feel about it. Very bold film-making.
- Rather of its time and hasn’t worn well. I didn’t understand it when it first came out and I still don’t now!
- Didn’t understand it in 1970 – don’t understand it now!
- Not my scene – too ‘way out’ for my taste. Nevertheless, completely mind blowing!
- Perhaps I needed some magic mushrooms to understand it! I think I need to research the films before I come (to ABCD) …