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Performance (1970) - Nicolas Roeg, Donald Cammell

Related: metafiction - Nicolas Roeg - Donald Cammell - 1970

Performance (1970) - Nicolas Roeg, Donald Cammell [Amazon.com]

Cammell was heavily influenced by the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges (a portrait of Borges can be seen at a crucial moment in the film) as he redrafted the script to create an intense, intellectual film dealing with issues of identity crisis.

Amazon review

This extraordinary 1970 British film marked the directorial debut of cinematographer Nicolas Roeg (working with Donald Cammell). James Fox portrays a London gangster who has to hide away for awhile and ends up staying with a fading rock star (Mick Jagger). The latter recognizes something of his old, daring self in the violent criminal, and after pushing open the boundaries of the hood's experience with psychedelics, the two men begin to intertwine as one. The film is an exciting pool of ideas about real and presumed power, about the mysteries of "performance" as a pressing outward toward an abandonment of identity and embrace of revelation. Beneath it all, however, is Roeg and Cammell's suspicion that the worlds of these two men--pop shaman and underworld soldier--are not dissimilar in their self-serving goals. --Tom Keogh for amazon.com


There's another line of thinking that considers the movie some kind of rip-off of the very good Ingmar Bergman film Persona because they bear some thematic similarity. Bergman's film probably hit the UK during the same year Donald Cammell wrote the script for Performance, but Cammell and Nicolas Roeg were readers with similar tastes. Their inspiration according to Cammell in Daily Cinema was predominantly the work of Jorge Luis Borges (inverted laws of Turner's domain, androgynous characters, conflict between life and work, identity and the conflict between the real artist and their gimmick) and Vladimir Nabokov's Despair (meeting of doubles or alter egos with the controversially interpreted ending). Cammell has worked direct links to many of their influences into the piece, including the homoerotic artwork of Francis Bacon, Borges' picture after a bullet starts travelling through the skull, and direct reading of book passages. --Mike Lorefice, http://www.metalasylum.com/ragingbull/movies/performance.html [Oct 2004]

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