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With: James Fox, Mick Jagger, Anita Pallenberg, Michèle Breton, Ann Sidney, John Bindon, Stanley Meadows, Anthony Valentine
Written by: Donald Cammell
Directed by: Donald Cammell, Nicolas Roeg
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, nudity, drug material and some violence (originally rated X)
Running Time: 105
Date: 08/03/1970

Performance (1970)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Rock and Role

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In 1970, Mick Jagger appeared in three movies: One was a forgotten western called Ned Kelly, one was the memorable documentary Gimme Shelter, and the third was Performance, which has been remembered even though it probably should have been forgotten.

Performance has now been blessed with a big re-release, probably with a new deluxe DVD to follow, and the nearest I can figure, this new attention comes from the cult following the film developed in its heyday. Once a film gains a cult following, it's stuck with it, come rain or shine. That doesn't, however, mean that the film will gain a new cult of fans over the years. That's unfortunately the case with Performance, which is very much a product of the late '60s and early '70s.

The film begins as a semi-standard gangster flick. We have the typical loose-cannon character, Chas (James Fox), a killer for the London mob who can't seem to keep his mouth shut or his gun in his pants. (He shaves the head of one of his victims and pours acid all over a Rolls Royce.) After he kills three would-be assassins in his apartment, he's forced to hit the road and go into hiding.

This much plot takes up an hour of the film, and it's not until the second hour that we meet Turner (Jagger), an artist from whom Chas scams a place to stay. Though Jagger's star power keeps us watching, not even he can save the film from its own haughtiness. Turner keeps a colorful hippie pad and lives with two women, Pherber (Anita Pallenberg) and Lucy (Michele Breton), who continually sleep and bathe with Turner, Chas and each other. They all eat mushrooms and talk about a bunch of way-out stuff. (Turner's most memorable line is "Nothing is true, everything is permitted.")

Two relative newcomers directed Performance, Donald Cammell (who also wrote the screenplay) and cinematographer-turned-director Nicolas Roeg. Cammell made a few more obscure movies before committing suicide in 1996, whereas Roeg has gone on to make several interesting, accomplished works including Walkabout (1971), Don't Look Now (1973), The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), and The Witches (1990). I know nothing about Cammell's style, but Roeg is known for his colorful, off-kilter worldview, though none of that really comes out in Performance. Mostly the film reveals a choppy, psychedelic editing style that renders everything confusing and dated.

Actually, the only thing really worth mentioning in Performance is Jagger, who gets to plunk out a bit of "You Gotta Move" on guitar in one scene, and performs a full-fledged music video in another. This only underlines why Performance has become outdated and insignificant next to Gimme Shelter, the astonishing documentary by David and Albert Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin. That film captured the pure, raw sexual rock 'n' roll energy of the Rolling Stones in their prime, and managed to view the flower-power era from an objective, journalistic distance. Gimme Shelter still rocks; Performance doesn't even roll.

DVD Details: Quite a few people are really excited about Warner Home Video's 2007 DVD release of this, and I'd like to be one of them, but I still think it's a dated movie, a relic of its time. Extras include two featurettes and a trailer.

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