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Performance Movie Review

nicolas mick fox roeg

Mick Jagger tried to launch a movie career in a big way in 1970. In May, he played the title role in Ned Kelly under the direction of Tony Richardson (a stretch) and in October, he starred as rich rock star Turner in Nicolas Roeg's Performance (not a stretch). James Fox, on the other hand, had had it with a screen career that began in 1950 on MGM's The Miniver Story (when he was billed as William Fox) and ended 20 years later with this decadent flick. Once one of the most conspicuous party goers in the swinging ‘60s, Fox gave up alcohol, became a born-again Christian and a missionary and, by 1983, a born-again actor. Think about that when you see him in 1963's The Servant and 1986's Absolute Beginners! Here, he's gangster Chas Devlin, complete with a juggler's wild orange wig and sunglasses, who's killed the wrong man and is hiding out in Turner's basement. Like many films of that era, The Scene is more important than the participants’ past. Anita Pallenberg and Michele Breton are Pherber and Lucy, two women who, along with Turner and Chas, engage in bisexuality, sadistic violence, masochism, and magic mushrooms. Performance was difficult to find on video for a good many years. I guess that it finally qualifies as a quaint period piece for classes that study 20th century Archaeology, Culture, and Customs. Nicolas Roeg made the timeless Walkabout with Jenny Agutter in Australia the following year, Donald Cammell went on to make Demon Seed with Julie Christie in 1977, and Mick Jagger never did become a superstar in the movies, although I doubt that he loses any sleep over it and he does give a fine rendition of “Memo from Turner” here. Recommended for further research (but only for the tenacious): Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones are the “stars” of Robert Frank's 1972 documentary, C*cks*ck*r Blues/CS Blues. For legal reasons, the chances of Frank's film ever surfacing on video are nada. You'll have to keep track of its rare screenings, at which the filmmaker is always present. If you think Turner and Chas give Pherber and Lucy rough trade in Performance, wait till you see what happens to real-life groupies backstage with the Stones: It's dead kinky and a little sad.

1970 (R) 104m/C GB James Fox, Mick Jagger, Anita Pallenberg, Michele Breton, Ann Sidney, John Bindon, Stanley Meadows, Allan Cuthbertson, Antony Morton; D: Donald Cammell, Nicolas Roeg; W: Donald Cammell; C: Nicolas Roeg; M: Jack Nitzsche. VHS, LV

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