In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_jimi_all_is_by_my_side

Jimi: All Is by My Side

What’s fascinating about “Jimi: All Is By My Side” is not only its decision to show us this particular chapter in Hendrix’s life, but also…

Thumb_boxtrolls_ver13

The Boxtrolls

"The Boxtrolls" is a beautiful example of the potential in LAIKA's stop-motion approach, and the images onscreen are tactile and layered. But, as always, it's…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives

Reviews

Performance

  |  

"Performance" is a bizarre, disconnected attempt to link the inhabitants of two kinds of London underworlds: pop stars and gangsters. It isn't altogether successful, largely because it tries too hard and doesn't pace itself to let its effects sink in.

But it does have a kind of frantic energy, and it introduced Mick Jagger in a role that reinforced his stage image without copying it. The movie is really about images anyway. On its most fundamental plot level, it's about a gangster (James Fox) who is trying to disguise himself so that he can slip out of England on a forged passport. He meets the Jagger character by accident when he takes a basement room in a boarding house.

Jagger is introduced as a top star of two or three years ago who has "retired" and hidden away to work on his memoirs or something. Mostly he seems to have submerged himself in a hedonistic existence with two girls, a variety of drugs, and a cloying assortment of Eastern artifacts. Almost every shot in his apartment is aimed past candles, incense, wall hangings, tapestries, and all that, and half the time we're even getting the Turkish rug reflected in the mirror.

This is not exactly the environment your everyday white-collar gangster feels at home in, but Fox plays a strange character who never feels at home anywhere. His workaday style is to beat and threaten potential "protection" customers. But despite his enthusiasm, he isn't really accepted even by the boss (every gangster has a boss) and his associates. So Jagger's little corner of London seems much like any other to him, affording a hideout until he can get the passport and fly to New York.

Alas, Jagger doesn't see it that way, and over the course of a day or two, the gangster is sucked down into a psychedelic whirlpool with Jagger and the two girls. One of them feeds him a hallucinogenic mushroom, after which the other dresses him in the unisex clothes they all wear, and then we get a lot of obligatory psychedelic photography showing the poor guy losing his identity, or his values, or in any event his inclination to escape.

The movie is so nervously edited that it doesn't stay around to develop the effects it introduces. That was a tendency with many semi-experimental British films of the early seventies; they were so concerned with reminding us they're movies that they don't do the work movies should. The first half of the movie is especially distracting. But after the gangster and the pop star meet, the editing and the story settle into a kind of consistency.

The surprise of the movie, and the reason to see it, is Mick Jagger's performance. It isn't simply good; it's a comment on his life and style. The ads emphasized his unisex appearance, and the role does so even more. When he slicks back his hair during a psychedelic fantasy, and seems to adopt the gangster's lifestyle, we're looking at acting insights of a very complex psychological order. Other than that, the movie is neither very good nor very bad. Interesting.

Popular Blog Posts

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

The Unloved, Part Ten: "The Village"

Part ten in Scout Tafoya's The Unloved series tackles "The Village."

Why my video essay about "All that Jazz" is not on the Criterion blu-ray

Bob Fosse's masterpiece "All That Jazz" jumps back and forth through the past and the present, and through memory and...

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus