Performance (Donald Cammell & Nicolas Roeg / United Kingdom, 1970):

Artaud, Lacan, Genet... Donald Cammell? The grand Borgesian hall of mirrors is lit as a skanky Persona travesty, with an extraordinarily allusive panoply of explosions, implosions and transformations. The London gangster (James Fox) shakes down debtors and defaces limousines with acid, and thoroughly savors his work; when he makes his brutality personal, he has to hide out from his employer and finds sanctuary in a hippie underground den disguised as a traveling juggler ("I'm looking for a bohemian atmosphere"). Anita Pallenberg's witchy groupie greets him, although the presiding magus is Mick Jagger's slumming pop meteor, first glimpsed sprawled in bed with the androgynous French ingénue (Michèle Breton). The triangular metamorphoses commence. The accelerating gangland flurry of the beginning gives way to the languid psychedelia of the rock 'n' roll star's hideout, where image and identity freefall through wigs, strobe lights, superimpositions. Nicolas Roeg provides the splintery montage, Cammell the atmosphere of opium liquidity -- both auteurs are united by their sense of transfiguration, the limits of liberation, the elastic grotesqueries of being human. "I know who I am" is the ongoing, anxious refrain; macho violence, pansexual insinuation: performances. Fox munches on 'shrooms and jumps into a tub with Breton, Jagger's rendition of "Memo From Turner" in business suit leaves a trail of dead, naked mobsters in its wake -- the climactic shooting is the penetration promised between the two men, a literal mindfuck that mates bullet to brain. ("A world of their own, these kids," it is overheard.) If Losey surveyed England's strictures deforming themselves in The Servant, Cammell and Roeg display the no less warped effects of the freedom that followed and lament our failure in grappling with them. Sixties premise is piled high so it can crumble into Seventies harshness. Jagger would continue on to Altamont, but the Age of Aquarius here had already experienced the pungent hara-kiri it set itself up for. With Johnny Shannon, John Bindon, and Stanley Meadows.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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