DIRECTORS: DONALD CAMMELL and NICHOLAS ROEG
COUNTRY: ENGLAND 1968/1969
CINEMATOGRAPHY: NICHOLAS ROEG
CAST: Mick Jaegger, James Fox, Michelle Bretton, Anita Pallenberg.
SUPER FEATURES: ONE OF THE BEST FILMS EVER DONE!!!!!!!!!
IF YOU LIKE FILMS, THAT CHALLENGE EVERY INCH OF YOUR MIND, BODY, SPIRIT AND SOUL THIS IS THE FILM TO SEE. IT IS ONE OF THE BEST WRITTEN, FILMED, AND SPECTACULAR FILMS EVER MADE. IT IS ONE OF A KIND, AND MUST BE SEEN TO BE BELIEVED. IT IS SUCH AN ADDICTIVE FILM, THAT YOU WILL HAVE TO SEE IT AGAIN TO FIGURE OUT WHAT IS GOING ON.
However, this film is not for every one, though it features some of the best known talent in the world of arts, specially music, which is another astounding element used so powerfully through out the visual madness of this film. This style of musical filming, was adopted by Nicholas Roeg, who is a master of music timing and spacing, in all of his films. The passages with music tend to enhance the film twice fold, rather than just show off a pasture, or grandiose sight. In PERFORMANCE, the music is the enzyme which carries the film, while also, being the drug, that confuses you to no end.
This film put Randy Newman (Long Dead Train), Merry Clayton (Gimme Shelter), Ry Cooder (Bottleneck guitar), Buffy Saint Marie (Dyed, Dead, Red) and Jack Nietzche (original music, and all musical arrangements) on the map as people whose talent and ability would go beyond the mere fancy of a hit song. And of course, it had MICK JAGGER in his first film.
This film was first made in late 1966, and early 1967, and was on the shelf for almost two full years, because Warner Brothers was afraid of how they could present something so weird, and unusual. Eventually, the fame of Mick Jagger, and the success of both Don Cammell and Nicholas Roeg, forced the studio to release the film, in a version which was shorter for American audiences, because of its sexual content, in the form of total disregard for nudity, manners, and poor taste in several scenes.
And one must remenber that this film has at least another or two levels running at all times. We may be seeing what one person is saying, and immediately, a visionary scene happens, which depicts what it is the person is really saying, or thinking. In this sense, the film is extremely difficult to explain, because there are two stories. One which we may think is the real one, and the one which we think is the invisible one, or the one which is felt, and not generally worked with. However, the actions of both extremists, the performer (James Fox) and the retired rock star (Mick Jagger) are so extreme and off the wall, that it becomes almost impossible to define where one level ends, and the next starts. In between, it has amazingly prophetic lines of dialogue, specially to Mick Jagger (James Fox remarks about Mick's make up and effeminate clothing " ... you'll look funny when you are forty ... ") which I am sure was not too pleasing to Mick, and might still not be. But his presence, does make the film really something else. And he is in peak form as a performer in this film (Memo From Turner) and in a scene with some fluorescent lamps on his hands.
The story goes something like this.
A performer (hired killer) is trying to quit his group, after one final job, who happened to have been an old friend of his, and the wrong one to mess with. The performer (James Fox) tries to change his appearance, and decides to take up in the Soho flats, where sex, drugs and rock'n'roll are the mode of living. While he is on the run, trying to figure out where he is going to go, he meets a stoned musician (looks like Hendrix, but isn't) who is talking to some one else about the good hits, and stuff one could find there, and that he had just left the place, because it was too heavy. The performer, jumps at the chance to hide in a hitherto unknown and unexpected part of town, where he may
succeed at evading his pursuers. Arriving at the flat where the retired rock star lives with two women (Anita Pallenberg - Keith Richards' wife, and Michelle Bretton), he requests to rent the room. He is turned down, but insists. He finally gets the room. And the fun really gets started here. Amidst much literature, mushrooms, loud music, and much sexual activity, the story goes every which way, with the performer trying to get a passport in the mean time. He goes out in wigs and clothes provided by the girls. By the end of the film, he has been found and his
boss is coming to get him, and take him home (to kill him). They show up on a given day, and come to pick up the performer. The performer, goes up to the rock star's room and plants a bullet on his head (the camera follows it) and then leaves. We only see the wig and body move. When the car moves off, a face turns, and ........ we can't give it away.
AND WE ARE STUCK. WHAT.? How the heck...?
There are several hints through the film. The most obvious one, and probably the most difficult to explain, is when Anita Pallenberg, amidst one of the scenes where they gave the performer several mushrooms (they are trying to find out who he is, and it is this invasion which leads the performer to kill the rock star in the end) and when he inquires about the rock star, and why he isn't on the stage, Anita says " ... he's stuck, he's stuck ... " and she tells a story about him playing around with mirror magic (staring into a mirror) and what happened. She says that
" ... he lost his demon ... it's out there, somewhere ... " which is harmless enough for now. I find this one of the best clues to this movie. If one accepts the premise that one being has two sides, one evening in a fit of drugs and bad meditational experience, the person split in the two obvious parts. And one could say that the 'demon' has become the performer (who has no history at all, and his boss comments on that) and the 'real' person is the rock star. However, one side without the balancing agent produces disturbing effects. For the rock star, it is the inability to find his spark. And for the performer, it is his inability to find a relative piece of mind, in a world where only violence and hatred persists. And my estimation, is that since they are one and the same person, they are doomed to meet at some point in time. Since we met them when they were separated, we do not know, or have a hint as to who is the real person. When they meet, eventually a choice has to be made (cross roads) and one will be gone. In the film, the rock star is the body to go. However, being that we see him alive in the end, the one who really went was the performer. And the rock star is now reborn, I presume. End of film.
AND YOU WILL SIT THERE FOR AN HOUR OR TWO WONDERING WHAT HIT YOU ON THE HEAD.
The use of the visual elements, the sensory part of the film, are disturbing at times, and loving at others. For example. The performer is doing one of his jobs, on a beautiful Bentley (or Rolls) and destroys it first with some acid solution, and then begins shaving the man's head, and torturing him. He doesn't kill the guy, but tells him this is a lesson. The sensory part of the film shows the performer making love to a woman, the performer being birched severely, a woman having an orgasm, and the whipped person screaming, and a court of law discussing a case (we hear the judge, and see his face close up) and when the deed is done, he leaves.
The other sensory parts of the film centered around the rock star, are all geared towards sex with the two women and the rock star (a scene mixes everyone in such a fast paced cut, that it confuses the viewer), and a preponderance of drugs. The dialogue is strong, and unusual important, offering what may be the hints to the real story. The only unexplainable parts, to me, regards the performer's boss, who in the song Memo From Turner, is played by Mick Jagger, another suggestion that the rock star may be the real person.
Along with THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, this film is the most famous of all midnight show'ers. And a great one, it is ,too. You'll end up seeing this film more than once, to try and answer your own questions. That tells you how good of a film it really is.
MUST SEE. PERIOD. GREAT FILM. SUPER MUSIC. WRITTEN LIKE NO OTHER BEFORE, OR SINCE.
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