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, it was about dualities and the blurring (or merging) of sexual identities; it featured 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.); it was a wild and drug-filled psychedelic, originally an X-rated cult film kept out of circulation for two years after production until edited down. The non-linear gender-bending cult film was criticized as sleazy and worthless for its homoerotic violence, explicit sex and nudity when first released. See Sex in Films for uncensored version.

Director Nicolas Roeg went on to make a series of legendary films, such as Walkabout (1971), Don't Look Now (1973), and The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976). The tagline of the weird and peculiar film referred to its emphasis on identity and sexual fluidity: "Mick Jagger. And Mick Jagger. James Fox. And James Fox. See them all in a film about fantasy. And reality. Vice. And Versa." It shared similar themes with Ingmar Bergman's Persona (1966, Swe.).

[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 his 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:
    • Chas Devlin (James Fox), a "confirmed bachelor"
    • Dana (Ann Sidney), a cabaret night club singer
Opening Title Credits Sequence

Fighter Jet

Gangster Limousine
Casual but Rough Sex In Limousine: Chas with Dana
  • Chas 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, while he was handcuffed to it
  • Flowers also compelled Chas to acquire a betting shop owned by independent, licensed betting bookie Joey Maddoxs (Anthony Valentine), once a close friend of Chas

Chas Violently Beaten by Joey and Other Thugs

Chas - Turning Tables on Punishers With a Gun

Chas to Joey: "I am a bullet"

Joey Lethally Wounded
  • despite his boss' wishes, Chas disobeyed and intervened inappropriately to persuade Joey - and soon after 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 with a belt on his bare buttocks (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
  • afterwards, the second thug was released, who then ran off to inform Flowers about the murder; fearing being charged with conspiracy to murder, Flowers ordered Chas to be eliminated; Chas was forced to adopt a disguise, go into hiding and to keep a low profile; he dyed his hair red, wore sunglasses, and prepared to flee London by train to Devon from Paddington Station
  • while waiting for his train, Chas overheard a guitar-carrying black musician named Noel (Ian McShane) talk about his basement room at 81 Powis Square being sublet by his landlord during his upcoming six-week musical tour; Chas listened as the musician described his drug-addicted landlord: "He's peculiar. He's a hermit. He can't face reality. That's what it is. A world of their own, these kids. Powis Square, Notting Hill Gate."
  • Chas pretended to be a professional juggler in the entertainment business, named Johnny Dean, who was a friend of the musician. He inquired to rent the recently-vacated basement room from the reclusive, androgynous, washed-up, former hippie rock/pop-star named Turner (the film's main star - Rolling Stones' singer Mick Jagger (in his first feature film))
Pherber (Anita Pallenberg) in Fur Coat Negotiating Terms of Rent with Chas
  • however, he first met Pherber (Anita Pallenberg, at the time of filming, the girlfriend of Jagger's band-mate Keith Richards), Turner's poly-amorous blonde junkie lover-girlfriend and secretary, who told him: "I didn't recognize your voice." In the film's most erotic scene, acting on Turner's behalf, she laid 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 in a large canopy bed - she filmed them with her movie camera, touching and posing them; the sequence was filmed in extreme close-up as a jumble of body parts; then, she stripped down and began making love to both of them
  • Turner 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 and Lucy (16 year-old Michèle Breton), Pherber's small-breasted, young, androgynous French girl lover; 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
  • Chas phoned his friend Tony Farrell (Ken Colley) and knowing he was in danger, expressed an interest in getting out of the country; he had stashed away some money, but needed to get a fake passport in order to leave England and evade his pursuers; he then described where he had acquired a room to rent: "What a freak show!...I tell you, it's a right piss-hole. Longhair, beatniks, druggers, free-love, foreigners - you name it! But I'm not bothered, Tone. I'm well in. And you couldn't find a better hidey-hole"
  • while Chas was on the phone, elsewhere in the house, 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")
  • in the film's central dynamic, Chas met with Turner who wanted to do away with the contemptuous Chas, and give him back his advanced rent payment, but Chas begged for his room: "I need a bohemian atmosphere. I'm an artist, Mr. Turner. Like yourself"; Turner mocked Chas' profession as a juggler: "I can tell by your vibrations you're the anti-gravity man! Amateur night at the Apollo. Cheops in his bloody pyramid"; a close-up image of an upright nipple provided a brief visual pun; Turner kept pressing: "You'll have to go. You wouldn't like it here...You wouldn't fit in here," but Chas insisted: "I've got to fit in, Mr. Turner"; Turner reconsidered on a day-to-day basis
  • Chas decided to remove his red hair dye with a solution, causing the reddish dye to cover his face in blood-like liquid; on a second call with his friend Tony, he learned that he had arranged for Chas to board a freighter ticket to NYC that week, with a passport and other payments for 900 quid; Chas only needed to acquire a Polaroid camera to take a small B/W photo for the passport
  • Chas described his new hair-look without red dye to change his image; as he spoke about how he was a "performer" who was undergoing change for his agent ("It's time for a change"), his face morphed into Turner's face
  • Pherber and Turner were both mushroom and drug users, and Pherber was harvesting hallucinogenic mushrooms in the backyard's greenhouse, to trick Chas and learn more about him through drugs and mind games, Pherber fed Chas one of her psychedelic mushrooms mixed into a salad; he first reacted by noticing: "What's wrong with the lights?" and began to trip out; Pherber had bandaged his bruised back (from the beating), and he claimed he was feeling "pretty sharp"; Pherber told him she had fed him some mushrooms, and he reacted: "You poisoned me!"; she claimed it was "Just to speed things up...We just dismantled you a little bit, that's all"
  • then in a scene of the exchange of the personas of Chas and Turner after presuming that Chas was a hit-man trying to flee, Turner came to believe that Chas' violent energy as a "performer" might inspire him and break him out of his own 10 year creative slump in which he had "lost his demon"; aging pop star Turner changed into the outfit of a slick-haired, mobster as he 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"
  • while Chas was under the influence, Pherber announced their intentions with him before he left them the next day: ("Time for your new image") - her objective was to shift his sexual identity and characteristics by costuming and the use of mirrors
  • Pherber changed and transformed 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
Central Scene: 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 - and he feels like me"
  • Chas continued to negate and reject what Pherber was saying about him having a female side; and then when she proposed making lesbian love with him, he reacted violently: "I said I'm not one of those....You're sick. You... You... You degenerate. You're perverted"
  • Pherber explained to Chas how Turner wanted to reinvent himself - he had become "stuck" because he had "lost his demon," but after looking at himself in his favorite mirror, he saw more clearly that he was "just a beautiful, little, freaky, stripy beast, darling. So he thought maybe... Maybe it's time for a change, he thought"; but then as he watched, 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 - the film's most talked-about segment, Chas joined up with Turner in his recording studio (where Lucy was also dancing) and watched as Turner wielded a flourescent light tube, and then fantasized taking on the identity and persona of Chas' London gangland boss Harry Flowers (with slick-black hair and wearing a dapper gangster's business suit); he sang the raunchy song "Memo From Turner"

    "...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!"

Pseudo-Dream Sequence Performance of the Song: "Memo From Turner" - Turner Took On the Identity of Chas' Mobster Boss Flowers
  • during the musical segment as Turner sang and impersonated Chas' boss in the darkened room, he was watched by his own subservient associates and thugs whom he ordered to strip naked as he performed; Turner sang to Chas' criminal henchmen and partners; when the song ended, Chas' henchmen were seen dead on the floor; there had been a total and complete merging of the personas of Chas and Turner
  • Chas again spoke on the phone with Tony about plans to leave London the following evening with his faked passport; it was revealed that Tony was double-crossing his friend to acquire his location at 81 Powis Square, Notting Hill Gate - Flowers was in the room listening to the conversation
  • Chas (still wearing his wig and female costuming) and looking very identical to Turner, found Lucy in bed with him in the basement; while making love to Chas, when he asked about her male-like body, 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 that he had to leave; Lucy told Chas that Turner liked him; Chas expressed how he thought that Turner shouldn't have retired: "He shouldn't have retired. He should keep at it...Everyone knows who he is still, don't they?"
  • in the film's deadly conclusion, Chas realized he had been double-crossed by his friend Tony, who had tracked his whereabouts to Turner's place, when he was confronted by his fellow gangsters in the mansion's foyer; they told him: "We've got to get off, Chas. Harry's waiting for you"; his boss' parked limousine was awaiting him outside and the house was entirely surrounded (on the rooftop and garden)
  • Chas went upstairs to tell Pherber and Turner in their bedroom that he was leaving; 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 was escorted to walk (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' Girlfriend Dana (Ann Sidney)

Mobster Boss Harry Flowers (Johnny Shannon)

Gangster Hit-Man Chas Devlin (James Fox) Working for Flowers

Acid Poured on Hood of Rolls Royce, and Chauffeur's Head Was Shaved

Chas' Disguise: Red Hair and Sun Glasses As He Fled From London

Pherber (Anita Pallenberg), Turner's Blonde Junkie Lover-Girlfriend, Meeting Chas ("I didn't recognize your voice")

Pherber Filming Turner and Lucy Sleeping in Bed Together

Threesome: Pherber Entered Turner's Bed

Pherber Injecting Herself With Vitamin B-12 (?)

Androgynous Rock Star Turner (Mick Jagger)

Chas Removing His Reddish Hair Dye

Pherber Eating a Psychedelic Mushroom

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

The Exchange of Personas - Turner Dressing as a Mobster Hit-Man: "The only performance that makes it..."

Turner in His Recording Studio Wielding a Flourescent Light Stick

Chas' Friend Tony Double-Crossing Him

Lucy with Chas (Resembling Turner)

Surrounded and Knowing That He Was About to Be Executed, Chas Said Goodbye to Pherber and Turner in Bed

Chas Fired His Gun at Turner in Bed

Pherber Screamed at Chas' Murder of Turner

The Trajectory of the Bullet's Path In and Out of Turner's Brain

Chas Walking to Mob Boss Flowers' Parked Car

Last View of Turner Bloodied in Closet

In Limousine Outside - Flowers to Chas: "Hello, Chas"

Chas/Turner in Back Seat of Mob Boss' Car


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