Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Performance (1970)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Performance (1970, UK)

In directors Donald Cammell's and Nicolas Roeg's (his directorial debut film) controversial (originally X-rated), dark, psychedelic and violent avant-garde psychological melodrama about dualities and the blurring (or merging) of sexual identities, with multiple examples of experimental and innovative film-making (fast and jarring jump cuts, shifts in POV, forward and backward flashbacks, elliptical editing, visual tinting effects, montages, etc.); the non-linear gender-bending cult film was criticized as sleazy and worthless for its homoerotic violence, explicit sex and nudity when first released:

[Note: Co-director Cammell committed a gun-shot suicide in 1996 and documented it, copying the style used by one of the film's characters to carry out an execution, to 'transform' himself. Allegedly, Cammell remained conscious for 45 minutes, and even asked his wife as he looked in a mirror about an image of literary puzzle master Jorge Luis Borges: "Do you see the picture of Borges?" - it was also conclusively claimed that he died instantly.]

  • the opening disjointed and disorienting title credits sequence included views of a screeching Lockheed fighter jet in the air, a black Rolls Royce driving down a country highway, and two naked heterosexual bodies making love ("confirmed bachelor" Chas Devlin (James Fox) and cabaret nightclub singer Dana (Ann Sidney))
Opening Title Credits Sequence

Fighter Jet

Gangster Limousine

Rough Sex: Chas with Dana
  • Devlin was a macho, brutal, hot-tempered and sadistic East London gangster hit-man or thug, working under London crime kingpin, mobster boss and gay racketeer Harry Flowers (Johnny Shannon). His job was to aggressively beat and threaten potential "protection" customers; early on, there was a particularly disturbing scene of a rival gangster's chauffeur being thoroughly humiliated by having his head shaved after strong acid was poured all over his expensive Rolls Royce automobile. Flowers also compelled Chas to acquire a betting shop owned by independent, licensed betting bookie Joey Maddox (Anthony Valentine), once a close friend of Chas'.
  • Chas intervened inappropriately to persuade Joey (disobeying his boss' wishes), and found himself assaulted in his apartment by Joey and a thug that had vandalized his place with blood-red paint. As Chas was violently beaten up and then tortured and whipped (as he recalled love-making with Dana from earlier), he suddenly turned the tables on his punishers. He grabbed a gun in self-defense, threatened Joey with the words: "I am a bullet" - and then shot him to death, as he cowered behind a bed-sheet. The second thug was released - but then he informed Flowers about the murder. Harry - fearing being charged with conspiracy to murder, ordered Chas to be eliminated.
A Pivotal Scene: Chas' Violent Beating and Retaliation

Chas - Turning Tables on Punishers

Chas to Joey: "I am a bullet"

Joey Lethally Wounded
  • Chas was forced to adopt a disguise, go into hiding and to keep a low profile. He pretended that he was a professional juggler named Johnny Dean, and inquired to rent a recently-vacated basement room - from the film's main star - Rolling Stones' singer Mick Jagger in his first feature film:
    • Turner (Mick Jagger) - a reclusive, androgynous, washed-up, former hippie rock/pop-star (described later as "a man, male and female man"), a mushroom and drug-user; he was living a bohemian hermit's existence in a luxurious but decaying London (Notting Hill Gate) mansion with lots of drugs and his two beautiful groupie, free-love love-mates:
    • Pherber (Anita Pallenberg, at the time of filming, she was the girlfriend of Jagger's band-mate Keith Richards), Turner's poly-amorous blonde junkie girlfriend and secretary
    • Lucy (16 year-old Michèle Breton), Pherber's small-breasted, young, androgynous French girl lover
  • in the film's most erotic scene, Pherber, acting on Turner's behalf, lay down on a bed while talking to London hit-man gangster Chas to negotiate the terms of rent. She stroked/fondled her fur coat covering her otherwise naked crotch.
  • In the next sequence, she entered the bedroom of Turner where he was sleeping naked next to an equally-naked Lucy - she filmed them with her movie camera and then stripped down and began making love to both of them; it was filmed in close-up as a jumble of body parts
  • one of the film's most publicized scenes was the shared menage-a-trois bath scene amongst them - Pherber, Lucy, and Turner:
The Shared Three-Way Menage A Trois Bath

Turner, Lucy, & Pherber

Turner, Lucy, & Pherber

Lucy (Michele Breton)

Pherber & Lucy

Pherber & Lucy
  • at one point, Pherber injected her bare bottom with what she claimed was Vitamin B-12 (although it was probably heroin) ("Too much vitamin B12 has never hurt anybody").
  • Chas was unsure where he had inquired for a room to rent and told his friend Tony (Ken Colley) on the phone: "What a freak show!...I tell you, it's a right piss-hole. Longhair, beatniks, druggers, free-love, foreigners - you name it!"
  • in the film's central dynamic, Turner wanted to do away with Chas, and give him back his advanced rent payment, but Chas begged for his room: "I've got to fit in, Mr. Turner"; Turner reconsidered on a day-to-day basis, and then came to believe that Chas' violent energy as a "performer" who was undergoing change ("It's time for a change") might break him out of his own creative slump in which he had "lost his demon." Meanwhile, Chas sought to acquire a Polaroid camera to take a small B/W photo to be used to create a fake passport in order to leave England and evade his pursuers
  • Pherber fed Chas one of her psychedelic mushrooms (he reacted: "You poisoned me!"), and then in a scene of the exchange of the personas of Chas and Turner, the aging pop star stated: "The only performance that makes it, that really makes it... that makes it all the way, is the one that achieves madness...Nothing is true. Everything is permitted"; and then to shift sexual identities and sexual characteristics by the use of mirrors and costuming, Pherber changed Chas' sexual identity by cross-dressing him up in effeminate clothing (and an androgynous curly wig) to give him a "female feel"; she then asked after comparing his pectoral muscles to her breasts: "Do you like my physique?...I've got two angles. One male and one female. Just like a triangle, see? Did you notice?... Did you never have a female feel?"; as she asked the question, she mirror-reflected or super-imposed one of her breasts onto Chas' chest - causing Chas to lose his sense of manliness; he objected: "No, never! I feel like a man, a man all the time"
Pherber with Chas - And a Reflecting Mirror (Twinning or Merged Identities)
  • she replied while she reflected her face onto his: "That's awful. That's what's wrong with you, isn't it?...A man's man's world"; he claimed that he was "normal" and that nothing was wrong with him: ("There's nothing wrong with me. I'm normal"); she laughed, and then reflected his face onto hers: ("How do you think Turner feels like, huh?"), but he thought Turner was "weird" and that she was both "weird" and "kinky"; she asserted that Turner was "a man, male and female man"; he continued to negate and reject what she was saying about him having a female side when she proposed making lesbian love with him : "I said I'm not one of those....You're sick. You... You... You degenerate. You're perverted"; she added that one day, Turner had become "stuck" because he "lost his demon" and after looking at himself in the mirror, "he thought maybe... Maybe it's time for a change, he thought"; but then his image faded and "his demon had abandoned him...He's still trying to figure out whether he wants it back - He's gotta find it again. Right?"
  • in the next pseudo-dream sequence, Chas watched as Turner wielded a flourescent light tube, and then took on the identity of his gangland boss Harry Flowers (with slick-black hair and wearing a dapper gangster's business suit), as he sang the raunchy song "Memo From Turner." During the musical segment as Turner sang and impersonated Chas' boss in a darkened room, he was watched by his own subservient associates and thugs who he ordered to strip naked; Turner sang to Chas’ criminal henchmen and partners: "...I remember you in Hemlock Road in nineteen fifty-six. You’re a faggy little leather boy with a smaller piece of stick. You’re a lashing, smashing hunk of man. Your sweat shines sweet and strong. Your organs working perfectly, but there’s a part that’s not screwed on...Come now, gentleman, your love is all I crave. You'll still be in the circus when I'm laughing, laughing in my grave...So remember who you say you are and keep your noses clean. Boys will be boys and play with toys so be strong with your beast. Oh Rosie dear, don't you think it's queer, so stop me if you please. The baby is dead, my lady said, You gentlemen, why you all work for me!"; when the song ended the henchmen were dead on the floor; there had been a total and complete merging of the personas of Chas and Turner
  • Chas (still wearing his wig and female costuming) and looking very identical to Turner, met up with Lucy who seduced him. While making love to Chas, she admitted that she was boyish - she had "small titties," was "a bit underdeveloped" and was "skinny like a little boy or something"; she bathed afterwards when he told her he had to leave
  • in the film's deadly conclusion, Chas slipped up and realized he had been double-crossed by his friend Tony, when he was confronted by his fellow gangsters in the mansion's foyer, who told him: "We've got to be off, Chas. Harry's waiting for you"; his boss' parked limousine was awaiting him outside and the house was surrounded - he had been traced to Turner's place. Chas told Pherber and Turner in their bedroom that he was going. Turner expressed a desire to join him: (Chas: "I've got to be off now..." Turner: "I might come with you then" Chas: "You don't know where I'm going, pal" Turner: "I do. (pause) I don't know" Chas: "Yeah, you do"). Then, Chas took out his gun and shot Turner in the head, as Pherber screamed next to him in bed
  • there was a dramatic bullet's-eye zoom-in shot as the fatal bullet penetrated and tunneled into Turner's brain - the bullet shattered a photograph of Jorge Luis Borges and then emerged into the outside street. Turner psychologically morphed into Chas at that moment. Chas left a note for Pherber ("Gone to Persia - Chas")
  • Chas/Turner walked (first seen from a rear view) toward his boss' parked limousine. He entered the back seat of a white Rolls Royce, where he was greeted by Flowers sitting next to him: "Hello, Chas." As the car sped off, a zoom-in through the car window revealed that Chas (still dressed with a wig and feminine clothing) had been stunningly "transformed" into his doppelganger - Turner. But one must ask: who died - was it Turner, or was it Chas?

Chas Walking to Parked Car

Last View of Turner Bloodied in Closet

Chas/Turner in Back Seat of Mob Boss' Car

Harry Flowers (Johnny Shannon)

Chas Devlin (James Fox)

Pherber (Anita Pallenberg)

Erotic Scene: Pherber (Anita Pallenberg) in Fur Coat with Chas

Threesome: Pherber Getting Naked In Turner's Bed with Lucy

Pherber Injecting Herself With Drugs

Turner (Mick Jagger)

Abstract Image

Pherber Eating a Psychedelic Mushroom

Superimposed Images of the Faces of Turner and Chas: "It's time for a change"

Pseudo-Dream Sequence - Turner Dressed as Chas' Boss Flowers: 'Memo From Turner'

Chas' Love-Making With Lucy

Chas' Goodbye to Pherber and Turner in Bed

Chas Firing Gun at Turner

Pherber Screaming at Chas' Murder of Turner

Bullet's Path In and Out of Turner's Brain


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