Performance (1970) Film Review B-

DIRECTORS: Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg
BOTTOM LINE: This psychedelic ménage à trois involving a gangster (James Fox), a reclusive rock star (Mick Jagger), and the lady he lives with (Anita Pallenberg) was made in 1968 but was held back from release by Warner Bros. because of its sexual content and graphic violence. Although the reviews were awful on release, the film has grown in stature over the years, and rightly so.
With obvious references to the Harold Pinter/ Joseph Losey masterpiece “The Servant,” the casting of the boyish Fox (who also starred in “The Servant”) opposite the androgynous Jagger (slipping into Dirk Bogarde’s shoes) works, the latter playing the role of a jaded rock star to perfection.
There will always be an argument about who was the real auteur behind the camera. Nicolas Roeg, one of the few great cinematographers (“The Masque of the Red Death,” “Petulia”), to transition to the great director (“Walkabout,” “Don’t Look Now”) is the obvious choice. Unfortunately, Donald Cammell’s post- “Performance” career was a series of failed projects (many involving Marlon Brando), with only the less than stellar “Demon Seed” (1997), White of the Eye” (1987), and “Wild Side” (1995, with the director’s cut in 1999) seeing completion before he died in 1996. As an iconoclast and a Hollywood outsider, however, he has his champions. The movie is based on an original screenplay by Cammell – see “The Servant” in Part One of this essay (“Sixty-Five Queer Films Made Under the Hays Code”).


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