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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
Visually compelling and disturbing look at two diverse sides of 1960s London; the criminal underworld and hippie culture, respectively symbolised by Fox's Chas, the wayward gangster, and Jagger's Turner, a semi-retired bisexual rock musician.
It's Chas' world we are first introduced to during a highly charged furiously paced scene of gangland violence. It soon becomes clear to us that he is not only an outcast to society but also dangerously individual within his own mob circle. On the run from both the law and the mob he takes refuge in a Notting Hill home which he finds is occupied by Turner, his junkie girlfriend, Pherber, and her French lover, Lucy. Tunrer becomes infatuated with Chas' violent charisma and his "vital energy" he himself feels he has lost.
As the title suggests the film is all about performances. Chas is initiated into Turner's underground world of drug experimentation and gender bending. Turner's name in itself is symbolic of the way he tries to play with and turn Chas' psyche around. It is ultimately the "performance" of Turner which brings the two worlds together, as he poses as Chas' mobster boss, Harry Flowers, in a scene shot similarly to a modern day music video.
Some critics had felt the film lost its way once Chas entered Turner's world. Yet surely such disorientation is indicative of how the film successfully explores Chas' own uneasiness in confronting his own subconscious in an alien atmosphere. The film is full of visual flourishes as one might expect from Roeg, who had been cinemaphotographer on films such as 'Fahrenheit 451'. Fox is mesmerising playing out the evolving identities of Chas, whilst Jagger's persona is exhibited to its full potential. Roeg was again to explore the theme of alienation using a rock star (this time David Bowie) in a more literal sense in his landmark science fiction film 'The Man Who Fell To Earth'.
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