Nicolas Roeg passed away this weekend at the age of 90. I’ve covered a couple of his films over the years like Don’t Look Now, The Man Who Fell to Earth and Bad Timing. Today I’m looking at his first film 1970’s Performance.
Roeg worked as a cinematographer for most of the 1960s and he was brought on to Performance again for his cinematography skills. First time director Donald Cammell was Roeg’s co-director. Cammell would go on to direct Demon Seed while Roeg would go to direct some brilliant movies throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
Shot in 1968 but not released until 1970 Performance is the story of a gangster, Chas (James Fox), who is violent and aggressive and manages to piss off his boss Harry Flowers (Johnny Shannon) by killing someone he wasn’t supposed to. Chas goes into hiding and ends up crashing at a place where a reclusive rock musician named Turner (Mick Jagger) is staying.
Chas is pretending that he’s a fellow performer but Turner and his lady friends Pherber (Anita Pallenberg) and Lucy (Michèle Breton) all see through Chas. Chas and Turner clash but Turner wants to know what makes Chas function and things start getting psychedelic when magic mushrooms are introduced.
Warner was appalled when they saw the film and refused to release it. They thought that they were getting a Rolling Stones equivalent of A Hard Day’s Night. The movie underwent extensive re-editing over the next year or so and was finally released in 1970.
Over the year’s the movie has garnered a following. It’s a pretty trippy movie. It’s sex, drugs, rock n’roll and questions of identity. And while Roeg was just the co-director the movie matches a lot his style and themes in his films that would follow like The Man Who Fell to Earth.