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Customer Review

41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Performance Cinema Re-release seen in Notting Hill London, May 14, 2004
This review is from: Performance [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Donald Cammell
"If Performance does not upset audiences," he explained, "then it is nothing."
My friend Neil and I have been waiting for some time to see this film at the cinema. It hasn't been widely available on video for some time and has not yet been released on DVD.
So we were overjoyed to see it was being shown at the Electric Cinema a wonderful recently revamped cinema in Notting Hill Gate, not a hundred yards from Powis Square, one of the main locations in the film.
Performance was financed by Warner Brothers in the late 60's, though it was not released for two years after its completion due to WB demanding recuts and probably hoping the whole sordid little film would be forgotten about.
Thankfully it wasn't, and has over the years become something important and special to many people.
Performance starts as a seemingly straightforward East end gangster film, typical of the period. However when Chas, played to perfection by James Fox, takes refuge in the bohemian lair that is Turners (Jagger) Powis Square townhouse, the pace and the feel of the film change dramatically.
Turner is a retired rock icon who is wallowing in in a filthy corner of his psyche while he decides whether to try and recapture his mojo or continue his hermit like existence. However the hermit tag only applies to Turners lack of contact with fresh air, not many hermits have two pretty free spirits in the form of Pherber (Anita Pallenberg ) and Lucy (Michele Breton) roaming naked around their self imposed prisons.
Pallenberg is the wild blonde who was probably didn't find it too hard to get into character, at the time of filming she was actually Keith Richards's girlfriend, and tales of a jealous Richards watching over the set are abound.
For me the most interesting character and also seemingly someone who probably wasn't acting is Breton. A very pretty boyish French Girl who was said to be a runaway. I have read that she died shortly after the film which seems like a sad but not surprising end for such a free spirited child of the sixties. I would love to have been able to tell you more about Breton, but a search on the internet will turn up very little. She would seem to me like a leaf that breezed into swinging London and was swept away like so many others.
Jagger is convincing as Turner and this is undoubtedly his best, if not his only good, film.
As Turner takes over control of the film from Chas we are treated to a feast of decadence and weirdness that never strays too far from reality for its own good. The film is tied down to a solid base by the continuing gangster film thread humming silently in the background.
Since 1970 many an apocryphal tale has surfaced surrounding the making of Performance, ranging from nervous breakdowns to suicide and drug overdoses. I am always skeptical about such tales, but, unfortunately most of these tales would actually seem to be true. Certainly writer and co director Donald Cammel shot himself and James Fox was disturbed enough not to make another film for many years afterwards.
As I waited for my friends to come out of the Electric Cinema, I overheard many a reaction to the film from other patrons. On the whole it would seem that people seemed disappointed or confused or even annoyed. Thanks god for that. Thank god it has not been tamed by age and become a safe little piece of 60's nostalgia.
Performance does upset audiences. It IS something.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 27, 2011 4:00:03 PM PST
C. Park says:
God, lucky bastard! Seeing it in Notting Hill! Great review by the way. This film is almost ridiculous in its greatness. Its praises are simply never sung enough. Great reveiw!

Posted on Jan 6, 2015 6:56:13 PM PST
C. Thermann says:
Best review I've read of this incredible film.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 31, 2015 10:58:21 AM PDT
dave jones says:
I watch... cinema... SF... broke... no drugs to sell (never did really)... panhandling for politicians... walk thru the door... tell ticket checker stub giver... i got nothing to give... he let me in free... sat in front very front (high....tho drugs bore me booze never most writers succomb to their bottle ventually)... Mick? hey... is this bout b rian? no. no... no... an Older More Xperient lady/FEMME tell me its all bout the O'ccult... tarot blah blah...had a mulatto BF...scre3w on acide... well discover i \straight.. sorry queer born straight why apologize? queers dont (nor they should never ev er always promote yourself LIFE HERE NOW IMPORTANT... perform!

Posted on Jul 16, 2015 6:06:09 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 16, 2015 6:07:48 PM PDT
Steve Kohn says:
Great visuals, credit probably to Roeg. Pretty good acting, especially by the gangsters. But starting in the middle of the film, when Chas rings the bell of his supposed safe house, it all goes bad. Bad dialogue, bad pacing, bad characters for whom we feel little affection.

I understand Roeg rushed off to Australia to make "Walkabout." Now that's a fine film. This one just isn't.
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