Quick-Thoughts: Performance (1970)

1970??? Well, you could’ve fooled me with any date much later than that. 

Nicolas Roeg and Donald Cammell’s Performance is a devilishly experimental organized crime picture that indiscreetly torpedos its audience with so much stone-hearted stress occurring on screen, to the point where it’s no wonder for why the movie has become a polarizing topic due to how laborious it can be to follow its story. Yet, I could make several cases on how Roeg and Cammell’s purposely repulsive presentation is what makes their infamous feature-length such a rare feast for the common film lover—especially this one! 

The precise editing of this movie I’d deem as a relatively paramount force. For instance, why have one event occur when you can have two? Simultaneous event cutting has proven to amp up the intensity in many cases and in Performance it makes the malicious actions of the mob feel more imposing than if they were edited traditionally. The musical numbers, score, and sound effects are infectiously spasmodic and ear-gashing, further raising the paranoia of the film. The deadly specific framing and fearless camera movements cause the picture to appear more as some surreal horror-show rather than a crystal clean gangster flick. 

While Performance appears quite negligent of having focused motifs and is preferably more obsessed with frolicking in its randomness, the “underground creation of art” element frankensteined with the “getaway crime genre” is too absorbing of an outturn to ignore. Acid trips just aren’t sold in packages this large in caliber anymore. It seems that I’ve been whipped into submission under the talents of Nicolas Roeg and Donald Cammell. I’m aching to see more of their work.

And yeah, I thought that was Mick Jagger in the poster. I had to hear his crazy voice and witness his ludicrous mannerisms to truly recognize him, though. Ha! 

Verdict: B+

“Performance” is now available to stream on YouTube, Google Play, Amazon Prime, iTunes, Vudu, and The Criterion Channel. 

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