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Chas, a violent and psychotic East London gangster needs a place to lie low after a hit that should never have been carried out. He finds the perfect cover in the form of guest house run by the mysterious Mr. Turner, a one-time rock superstar, who is looking for the right spark to rekindle his faded talent. Written by
PERFORMANCE captured the perverse sub-culture of organized "working class" gangsters with an unromanticized authenticity not matched until THE SOPRANOS came along three decades later. But it's not just a gangster movie; it's a heady brew overflowing with subtle and insightful intuitions about the power and dangers of the ego, the male-female equation, power structures, sex, drugs and rock'n'roll. Mainstream viewers might be put off by the radical "rococo" editing, which was well ahead of its time -- as were the "rock video" sequences which feature some of Mick Jagger's finest musical moments (playing blues guitar; and singing and dancing at the peak of his prime in the scene where he regains his "demon.") The soundtrack also features stellar cuts from Randy Newman and Merry Clayton, a great score by Jack Nitszche, and what may be the very first "rap" song ever recorded on film, by the Last Poets. Wall-to-wall intercuts bounce us around among story points connected on the quantum level; they may seem arbitrary and confusing, but rather than trying to "get" the story as it unfolds, the first time viewer is advised to just go with the flow and absorb as much as possible, enjoying the beautifully choreographed violence, the awesome soundtrack, the quirky characters and intriguing storyline. If you get into the mystical and psychological subtext, you'll probably end watching this movie more than once, and you'll get more out of it each time. But even on a superficial level, this film has plenty to enjoy. All the performances are excellent; James Fox and Jagger are outstanding. Movies don't get any better than this. P.S. -- Although Nick Roeg is a fine director, much of the credit for this masterpiece goes to Donald Cammell.
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