Performance (1970)

Genres - Avant-garde / Experimental  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Drama, Satire  |   Release Date - Aug 3, 1970 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 101 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Tom Wiener

If Michelangelo Antonioni put one foot in the waters of late-'60s London with Blow-up, Nicolas Roeg and Donald Cammell dove right into the deep end of the pool, emerging with this rock & roll version of Ingmar Bergman's Persona (consider the film's production number, "Memo From Turner," the first example of gangsta rap). The delineation between the contributions of the co-directors has been a subject of ongoing critical debate for over 30 years. Because Roeg served as cinematographer (after a brilliant career as a director of photography on such films as Petulia and Far From the Madding Crowd) and Cammell wrote the original script, it was originally assumed that film's "ideas" were Cammell's and the "visuals" were Roeg's. Then, when Roeg went on to have a more prolific career than Cammell (who directed only three more films before his 1996 suicide), credit for more than just Performance's stunning visuals began to tilt to Roeg. But, as Roeg made clear in the 1998 documentary Donald Cammell: The Ultimate Performance, the questions of identity, sexual and otherwise, that Performance dealt with were lifelong concerns of Cammell. Performance is no simple wallow in the mutually decadent lifestyles of criminals and musicians, but an honest attempt to understand the roles we play every day.