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Performance [DVD]  
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A young gangster (James Fox) seeks refuge from the mob in a basement belonging to a fading rock star (Mick Jagger). After taking a trip, he begins to cross dress and experiment with his sexuality. The directorial debut of Nicolas Roeg explores both the liberating impulses and threat of anarchy which provided the twin motors of the 'Swinging Sixties'.
"I like that. Turn it up!" Performance is the Altamont of '60s cinema; psychedelic and hallucinatory, decadent and depraved, polymorphous-perverse. And you can dance to it! Melding the sex, drugs, and rock & roll ethos of swinging '60s London with the gangster film, Nicolas Roeg and Donald Cammell's genre-bending cult classic is so mind blowing that star James Fox did not act in a film again for nearly a decade. Fox stars as Chas, an "out of date" enforcer for crime kingpin Harry Flowers. Chas is a "nutcase," who likes "a little cavort," but when he kills someone he wasn't supposed to, he is forced to go on the run. He takes refuge in a basement room belonging to Turner (Mick Jagger), a former rock star who has "lost his demon" and now lives as a recluse in his dilapidated house with his secretary/lover, Pherber (Anita Pallenberg, who was Rolling Stones bandmate Keith Richards' girlfriend at the time), and an androgynous French girl (Michele Breton). They enjoy a little cavorting themselves and in these drug-strewn surroundings, worlds collide and identities merge. "I know who I am," Chas tells Harry early on. He (and viewers) will become less sure as Performance unfolds.
Completed in 1968 but shelved for two years, Performance was originally rated X and has been redesignated R. But it's still strong, potent stuff. With its elliptical editing, mirror images, and echoed dialogue that bridges the two worlds, Performance may not become clearer with repeat viewings, but there are fresh discoveries to be made each time. The killer soundtrack features Randy Newman, Ry Cooder, rap revolutionaries the Last Poets, and Jagger's own astounding "Memo from Turner." "I know a thing of two about performing, my boy," Turner tells Chas at one point. "The only performance that makes it... that makes it all the way, is the one that achieves madness." Performance makes it all the way. As Roeg is quoted in a featurette produced for this DVD, "After all this time, its mystery is part of its magic and attraction." --Donald LiebensonSee all Product Description
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And, by the way, this is Cammell's film, not Roeg's. Roeg has, over the years, sought from time to time to distance himself from Performance. His photography is very, very good, but the whole philosophy, style, presentation, characterisation is strictly Cammell. The greatest British film since Michael Powell and Emeric Pressberger rode the range.
I was really excited when I saw this was available on Blu Ray and immediately ordered it. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that Warners have used the US master that features some truly awful dubbing that completely wrecks the early part of the movie.
The UK DVD had the correct audio track that kept Johnny Shannons', John Bindons' and Stanley Meadows' proper voices. This Blu Ray does not and its painfully obvious. Even more curiously, in a later scene in the bedroom of Harry Flowers (Shannons' character) it appears to revert back to the correct audio!
This is a big disappointment as the picture and sound are both very good on this release and of course the film is one that if you're a fan of classic British movies you have to see. Its certainly a film that divides opinion, eliciting either gushing praise or downright hatred depending on who you speak to. Personally I love it because it challenges you with every viewing.
I would advise, however, that you read up on the movie first. There are so many subliminal references and flash frames hidden in the film that coming to it cold is not recommended.
Of course, you may still find it pretentious and too pleased with its own cleverness or you will relish the unconventional nature and strange atmosphere that pervades the entire movie, right down to the head-scratching ending. Make sure you get the right version though.
I don't think I can add much more to some of the eloquent reviews already posted. I have an encyclopaedic knowledge of it, and have lost count ( 20+?) of the times I have seen it.
If only the full cut had been released.
If I waxed lyrical about it, I wouldn't know where to stop.
Just two points. Read Nabokov's "Despair", as it was being read by both Cammell and Roeg whilst they were filming it. The novel connects with the film. Also : a companion piece to this masterpiece is "The Servant", in which James Fox also appears.
And it does indeed excel for the most part - a clear crisp cut with a soundtrack nicely audible.
My gripe is simple. During the Memo From Turner scene the soundtrack is inexplicably made by putting one channel of the stereo through both speakers. This means you can't hear the music properly and (as someone pointed out already) Turner's 'here's to old England' toast is inaudible. But then so is much of the guitar and other music in this sequence. As its the highlight of the entire film the overall impression of a long-awaited DVD is very poor and I suspect I will not watch it again, preferring a DVD recording of last time the film was shown on BBC2 - at least you can hear the music properly. How could Warners have got this so wrong?
Don't get me wrong - Performance is a brilliant, BRILLIANT film. It warrants ***** on its own, it's just this release is flawed.
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A fascinating look into a almost vanished world, and was only 40 years ago.Published 11 days ago by Selwyn Roberts