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UK: BFI (Access)
Cast: James Fox, Mick Jagger, Anita Pallenberg, Michele Breton, Ann Sidney, John Bindon, Stanley Meadows, Allan Cuthbertson, Anthony Morton, Johnny Shannon, Anthony Valentine, Ken Colley, John Sterland, Laraine Wickens
Directors: Nicolas Roeg; Donald Cammell
UK: 105 mins
UK Certificate: 18 contains strong violence and drugs use
UK Release Date: 7 May 2004 (Limited Re-release)
The notorious and celebrated directorial debut of Nicolas Roeg and Donald Cammell is about to be re-released by the British Film Institute, allowing a new generation of film-goers to experience the full force of this British cult classic on the big screen.
Shot in the summer and autumn of 1968, PERFORMANCE is a mesmerizing portrait of late 60s London, offering a potent mixture of gangland violence, rock 'n' roll decadence, sex and drugs. James Fox plays Chas, a brutal, Krays-type gangster on the run both from the police and from his own associates. While waiting to escape abroad, he seeks refuge in the Notting Hill mansion of a reclusive, burnt-out rock star (Mick Jagger) who lives there with his girlfriend (Anita Pallenberg) and a young French girl (Michele Breton). As they draw Chas into a disorientating world of sexual and psychological games, the macho gangster and the androgynous rock star assume increasingly interchangeable identities. In the words of the original poster: 'This film is about madness. And sanity. Fantasy. And reality. Death. And life. Vice. And versa.'
Crucial to the film's rhythm is its blazing soundtrack which introduced a new instrument - the electronic synthesizer. Composed and arranged by Jack Nitzsche (who worked with amongst others Phil Spector, Sonny Bono and the Rolling Stones), the music was conducted by Randy Newman, performing alongside musicians like Ry Cooder, Mick Jagger and Buffy Saint-Marie.
Backed by Warner Brothers, the production history of PERFORMANCE was extremely fraught. At a test screening in Santa Monica in March 1970, one executive's wife vomited with shock and paying customers had to be offered their money back. When released in the US in August 1970, the film was loathed by mainstream critics. Held back by Warner, PERFORMANCE was not released in the UK until January 1971, but with strong support from the underground press, was to gain the status of an instant classic. More than thirty years on from its original release, PERFORMANCE remains a film that attracts and repays repeated viewing and which has lost none of its disturbing power.