Performance

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110 th
Directors poll
174 th

Performance

Year: 1970 Country: United Kingdom / USA
Directed by Donald Cammell / Nicolas Roeg
Featuring James Fox / Mick Jagger / Anita Pallenberg

Introduction

Nicolas Roeg’s directing career began with this explicit and experimental thriller about a hunted gangster taking refuge with a reclusive rock star.

“Perhaps the last genuinely exotic fruit produced by the bizarre mutations of British society in the 1960s.”
Alexander Walker, Hollywood England: The British Film Industry in the Sixties, 1986

“I like a bit of a cavort,” says Chas (James Fox), amoral wide boy on the run who hides out in the rambling Notting Hill pad of rock god Turner (Mick Jagger), merging identity with his host and hangers-on as he is inducted into their insular bohemian lifestyle.

Influenced by Ingmar Bergman’s Persona (1966) and the films of Alain Resnais, Performance introduced the fractured storytelling and editing style of cinematographer-turned-director Nicolas Roeg. Co-director and screenwriter Donald Cammell can be credited for the mind-bending, debauched tone, which so outraged Warner Bros that the studio shelved the film for two years. The use of colour is extraordinarily vivid, while the soundtrack incorporates Jack Nitzsche’s unnerving score alongside songs that include Jagger’s Memo from Turner.

Donald Cammell directed only three more features before his death in 1996. Sexy Beast (2000), also featuring James Fox, stands out among many films influenced by Performance.