18 December 2008

‘PERFORMANCE’ (Dir. Donald Cammell & Nicolas Roeg, 1970, UK) - 'Didn't I see you down in San Antone on a hot and dusty night?'

Released in 1970 and a partnership between perhaps two of the brightest and most original film directors to have emerged out of the British film industry, one cannot but help be struck by the unique position a film like ‘Performance’ occupies in film history, because nothing quite like it has been made since by a UK film maker and maybe never will. A collaboration between Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg, ‘Performance’ has obvious gangster connotations especially in its referencing of East End crime traditions yet both Cammell and Roeg merely use the idea of a gangster hiding out in the Bohemian digs of a bored, self indulgent rock star (Mick Jagger) to bombard the spectator with an endless stream of drug induced kaleidoscopic imagery that is fashionably juxtaposed so that both time and space gradually cease to exist. It was a film way ahead of its time and even today ‘Performance’ seems completely post modern in its deliberate self reflexive allusions to Mick Jagger, a cultural icon of the 1960s counter culture movement and trend setter for the sexually liberated London scene. James Fox is a revelation as the cocky and over confident Chas and his final self destruction is mysteriously depicted through Roeg's much celebrated hedonistic but beautiful cinematography. A definitive British film, ‘Performance’ continues to be recognised by many as a masterpiece and no film director has quite used The Stones classic 'Memo from Turner' with such reverence and skill than Cammell & Roeg.


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