The producers behind Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg’s Performance thought, thanks to Mick Jagger’s involvement, they would be getting essentially a Rolling Stones version of the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night. Boy were they in for a surprise. After ten minutes of watching this film, the only thing I could say was, “Whoa,” and I wasn’t doing my best Keanu Reeves impersonation. To say that this film is drug-fueled is to be as blunt and open as one can be. Apparently, the producers ended up sitting on this film for a couple years or so, unsure of what to do with it. I can understand that; to try and ascertain what exactly this film does and why it does it will probably take some form of illegal hallucinogens.
Chas is a “performer”, a thug and intimidator working for a small gang in London, who is very good at his job. That is, until he lets personal feelings into one particular case, and he ends up killing a man and fleeing from the gang. He decides to hide out in the basement room of a washed-up rock star named Turner (played by Mick Jagger), and soon the two men are interacting and influencing each other, as well as Turner’s two groupies, Pherber and Lucy. Now, when I say “interact” and “influence”, what I really mean is they are antagonistic for a while, until drugs become involved, and then everything’s out on the table. Holy fuck, was this film a headtrip. Right from the get-go, the incredibly fast and jumpy editing style disorients you completely; before you have a handle on where the scene is and who it’s about, we’ve cut to some random shot that threatens to interject some new situation, and then again, and then we’re back to where we were, but the setup is different and the camera looks different, and then the scene’s over and we’re on to the next one. It’s so rapid-fire and so non-linear that you almost need a degree in studying such films before attempting this one, but at the same time, it is incredibly engaging. It generally seems that the faster a film’s editing is (as long as it’s not too fast), the more engaging the film tends to be, and Performance is a good example of this. It may not be the best aspect of filmmaking, but I’ve found it holds true more often than not. There’s also a scene near the end of the film where Turner and Pherber drug Chas with mushrooms in an attempt to get inside his head. Naturally, as drug-addled as the film already is, it goes overboard in this sequence, making it all about the sensory experience and less about any sort of plot or story. If anything might be a little too much for those who go into this without the expectation of it being as trippy as it is, it’s this scene, so watch out.
This was pretty damn enjoyable, as weird and eccentric as it was. If you go into it expecting what you’re gonna end up getting, you can just roll with it, and your appreciation for the unique experience the film offers only grows. Really, there was a lot to like about this one, though if one were to dislike it it may probably be for the same reasons as one would enjoy it. Me, I ended up on the positive side of the spectrum, though I can understand if someone doesn’t end up joining me; this is a really weird film, but it’s the kind of weird that has a purpose, a directive, so there’s at least something to it in the end.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10