Much like a TARDIS, a Borges short story, or Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49, Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg‘s 1970 film, Performance, is far bigger on the inside than its outside might indicate. Starring Mick Jagger, James Fox and Anita Pallenberg, and with its primary action confined to that of a London flat, Performance manages to explore, in its uniquely heady and hypnotic way, such notions as gender, identity and madness as a function of creativity.
In fact, it feels at times like there’s so much going on within Performance‘s 105 minutes, in terms of philosophical scope and ambition, movies like The Matrix or 2001: A Space Odyssey seem almost puny in comparison.
And much like the London flat itself, Performance is a movie to lose yourself in. Since my preteen exposure to it via the Z Channel, I must have watched it a good dozen times. Nevertheless, the film continues to surprise me. Disorient, too.
Part of this was due, no doubt, to the alchemical editing of co-writer/director Donald Cammell, who sadly, took his own life in ‘96. Cammell’s ultimately tragic life and career is certainly deserving of its own post at some point, but, in the meantime, what follows is Part I of an absolutely worthwhile 3-part documentary on the making of Performance and the controversy that’s dogged the film ever since its release 30 years ago. Links to the other parts follow below.