His Dark Materials
Forgot your password?
Don't have an account? Sign up here
Got more questions about news letters?
Already have an account? Log in here
and the Terms and Policies,
and to receive email from Rotten Tomatoes and Fandango.
Please enter your email address and we will email you a new password.
We encourage our community to report abusive content and/ or spam. Our team will review flagged items and determine whether or not they meet our community guidelines.
Please choose best explanation for why you are flagging this review.
Thank you for your submission. This post has been submitted for our review.
Sincerely, The Rotten Tomatoes Team
First-time directors have to start somewhere.
A masterpiece which demands repeated viewings
the most pretentious piece of crap ive ever seen
1001 movies to see before you die.
A clash of the cultures mobsters and hippies all framed by trippy influences.
Infuriating, incoherent, very badly acted in places - and yet, for the first half at least, there's a peculiar fascination in watching a perversely-cast James Fox testing his hardman credentials as a ruthless gangster. The second half becomes increasingly druggy and self-indulgent as Mick Jagger's Notting Hill harem seduce Fox with magic mushrooms and hedonism. Best seen as a snapshot of late-sixties cinematic decadence.
"Performance" is neither a bad or good film, but somewhere in between. The word that gets used about it a lot is "decadence," and that seems fitting. The film revels in its amoral setting of violent gangsters and sex-centered pad living. Roeg's photography and color is typically extravagant despite the lack of diversity in setting. The editing calls a lot of attention to itself and can be quite exhilarating. Jagger's performance is interesting because it's him, but if it were anyone else it would be lazy and forgettable. The film has a lot to say about identity and the convergence of personalities, but it all comes out a lot more muddled than it should be. It's like an amateur's take on Bergman's "Persona."
The film elicits a wide range of responses. I've seen many claim its one of the masterpieces of cinema and many say it's totally rubbish. It's certainly not as great as all that and I would lean more towards the bad side, but I see why it has remained a cult favorite. I think there's a lot to be learned from this as a filmmaker of both what to do and what not to do when pushing the envelope and experimenting. It's dated, but has remained influential and is certainly a catalyst for cinematic debate. I would side with Danny Peary and Ebert who both felt it was interesting but lacked too much to even really be good.
Experimentalism can only go so far before I begin to feel the effects of sensory overload induced fatigue. Slaphappy style can most successfully avert my attention in the form of a painting, a short form video, but when bombarded by it for the length of a feature film do I rapidly lose that ever-important feeling called interest. While I'm all for artistic expression within the scope of a risky piece, I'm not so easily seduced by a movie that has nothing much else to offer besides its style; I like visual massages better when they take the time to emotionally, or at least intellectually, get me to a point of an optical climax.
But "Performance" is like "Midnight Cowboy" minus the wide ranging palette of humanistic feelings - it's a series of overbearing imagery without the depth to make it resonate as anything other than a masturbatory cinematic exercise on the part of its filmmakers. Here, those filmmakers are Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg, a pair iconoclasts of the British avant garde who, like star Mick Jagger, used the movie as a vehicle to debut their innovative auteurist maneuvers.
And I can take it - to a point. "Performance" begins with tantalization but leads to a bad case of exhaustion on the part of its viewers. It's a film more impressed by its own ocular smorgasbord than it is with nearly everything else. In return, we get a hallucinatory masterpiece that also leaves you dazed and confused, never allowing for unguarded enthrallment.
Despite its habit of toting Jagger as its main, "Performance" is really headlined by James Fox, a blue eyed beaut with a snake in his boot. He portrays Chas, an East London gang member whose sadistic nature has gained him a reputation as one of the finest thugs working for Harry Flowers (Johnny Shannon), the ruthless leader of the crime conglomerate. His liking of beating the truth (and cash) out of Flowers's said enemies translates into his sex life, where rough encounters abound. He's a brute, and maybe we wouldn't be so mesmerized by his persona if we weren't so sure that there were some vulnerability lurking beneath his hardened surface.
Chas could go on living like the devilish beast that he is for the rest of his life. But his rigid assurance sinks into a pit of despair when he kills (in self defense) a murderous shop owner with whom he has a mangled personal history. After Flowers refuses him protection - to off him is easier - Chas figures it be best to hide in the secluded countryside until the smoke clears off. But a change of fate keeps him in London, sharing the house of Turner (Jagger), a loony, has-been rock star, and his women, Pherber (Anita Pallenberg) and Lucy (Michèle Breton). What begins as an attempt to find solitude, though, turns into something more as the strange going-ons without the House of Turner start to have an effect on its newest resident.
In principle, "Performance" is merely two films merged into one, one a revamping of the gangster movie genre and the other a critiquing of rock star life. Though I prefer it when it's emulating "Le Doulos" and having a profound influence on Guy Ritchie, neither film, if individualized, would be a good one. Such is so because Cammell, who wrote the screenplay, isn't interested in developing the characters or the situation that befalls them; he gives most work to Roeg, whose visual peculiarities overstay their welcome after a half-hour passes and we come to realize that the movie is more pretentious than it is meaningful. It asks us to have our cake and eat it, too, but it snatches it out of our hands before we can appreciate its sugary delights. It's unable to connect with its audience - it's too self-congratulating for that.
But at least it pulls out first-rate performances from Fox (a sly miscreant) and Jagger (a paradigmatic magnet of a presence), and at least it's fertile enough in its imagery to avoid everyday boredom. But it does verge on the tedious and it does cross paths with the overblown on many occasion. How one responds to its stylistic superfluities depends.
The perfect example of what a film should never be: too pretentious for its own good.
Some very memorable moments, but overall extremely disjointed.
The movie doesn't work completely; it suffers from its own over-ambition and the plot structure is too limp for its hallucinogenic editing to be really effective.