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April 18, 2011

PERFORMANCE — CLASSIC FILM PICK

Performance A collaboration between British directors Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg, "Performance" is a stunning experimental film. It pioneered a slew of modern cinematic techniques adopted by such master filmmakers as Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, Quentin Tarantino, and Gaspar Noé. Virtuosity of camera movement on display is spellbinding. Cammell's and Roeg's transposition of William S. Burroughs' literary cut-up technique to cinema is a key ingredient in the storytelling. Also on display is a self-reflexive ironic approach that puts class distinctions and prejudices under a sociopolitical microscope. The camera lens becomes a tool for providing a telescoping micro-macro vantage point for the audience.

James Fox plays Chas, a well-dressed enforcer for East London mob boss Harry Flowers (Johnny Shannon). A sociopath by design, Chas considers himself an "artist." The egotistical criminal "performer" is ruthless in dealing with his targets regardless of their sphere of influence. An important attorney finds out the hard way about Chas's proclivity for punishment when the sadistic emissary takes a container of acid to the man's Rolls Royce before torturing his chauffeur. He forcibly shaves the man's head with a straight razor. Chas oversteps his boundaries with a childhood rival named Maddocks who in turn attempts a retribution hit that doesn't go as planned. The newly minted public-enemy-number-one goes into hiding in the basement rental apartment of a retired rock star named Turner (well played by Mick Jagger in his first film acting performance).

Jagger
Turner lives a comfortable bohemian existence with his bi-sexual girlfriends Pherber (Anita Pallenberg) and Lucy (Michele Breton). At peace with having lost his "demon" muse, Turner is curious about his right wing tenant who claims to be a juggler by profession. For all of his skills, Chas isn't a good liar. While preparing to leave England for America, Chas enters into a series of confrontational games with Turner. He also samples from the sensual fruits of Turner's groupie houseguests.

"Performance" (1970) is a watershed of voyeuristic cinema. An undercurrent of BDSM roils through organic sex scenes rumored to have integrated actual copulation. The film's complex soundscape adds yet another level of editorial information. Its extraordinary musical score is years ahead of its time. Stand-alone musical set pieces later informed the production design for the music video industry.

Performance

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