Synopsis by Tom Wiener
Even in an era of cinematic experimentation, Performance stands out as a visually daring major-studio film that deals with questions of sanity and identity rarely touched on in mainstream filmmaking. The elements of Performance certainly looked attractive to studio executives at Warner Bros. -- a gangster on the lam hides out in the home of a reclusive rock star -- especially since that musician was being played by Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones. But co-directors Nicolas Roeg (who also photographed) and Donald Cammell (who wrote the screenplay) had much more in mind than a walk on the wild side of swinging London. Chas (James Fox) is a sadistic thug who gains our sympathies only because men even crueler than he are out to kill him. After Chas arrives at the mansion occupied by Turner (Jagger) and his female companions Pherber (Anita Pallenberg) and Lucy (Michele Breton), what looks like a decadent idyll fueled by drugs and group sex turns into a series of mind games in which Turner challenges Chas' sexual preference and core identity. Even the film's one musical number, "Memo From Turner," is a William Burroughs-like monologue in which Turner fantasizes taking over Chas' role as a mobster, spewing insults to his colleagues. The film's cult status has been fueled by subsequent films of its co-directors (for Roeg, Walkabout, The Man Who Fell to Earth, and Don't Look Now; for Cammell, White of the Eye), which explored similar themes employing the same kind of jagged editing and striking visuals.
music, police, criminal, fugitive, hidden, identity, mental-illness, on-the-run, performer, rock-music