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 avante-garde psychological melodrama about the blurring 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 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: views of a screeching Lockheed fighter jet in the air, a black Mercedes 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
  • the character of macho, brutal, hot-tempered and sadistic East London gangster hit-man Chas Devlin, working under mobster boss Harry Flowers (Johnny Shannon); he became a fugitive on the run after a too-personalized, vengeful and murderous assault on Joey Maddocks (Anthony Valentine), when he shot him cowering under a sheet and proclaimed: "I am a bullet"
  • while waiting for a fraudulent passport to escape to the US, Chas' (now with the alias Johnny Dean) refuge in the townhouse residence of reclusive, mushroom and drug-using hippie, androgynous ex-rock star Turner (Mick Jagger in his debut film - technically!) (described later as "a man, male and female man") - an underground basement in a Notting Hill apartment, with his two girlfriends
  • the shared menage-a-trois bath scene between Turner and his two female 'free love' companions: his poly-sexual blonde junkie girlfriend Pherber (Anita Pallenberg), and her young, small-breasted French lover Lucy (Michelle Breton); later in the film 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"
Menage-a-Trois Bathtub Sequence
  • the film's most erotic scene: Pherber lay down on a bed while talking to London hit-man (or 'performer') gangster Chas and stroked/fondled her fur coat covering her otherwise naked crotch; at one point, she injected her bare bottom with what she claimed was Vitamin B-12 (although it was probably heroin)
The Most Erotic Scene
  • Turner's thematic statement: "Nothing is truth. Everything is permitted"
  • in the scene of shifting sexual identities and the merging of personalities and sexual characteristics by the use of mirrors and costuming, Pherber and Turner cross-dressed Chas up in effeminate clothing (and an androgynous curly wig) to give him a "female feel"; she then asked: "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: "I feel like a man, a man all the time"; she replied while reflecting 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 what she was saying about him having a female side: "I said I'm not one of those....You're sick. You... You... You degenerate. You're perverted"
  • the pseudo-dream sequence of Turner's wielding of a flourescent light tube, as Chas watched, followed by Turner's raunchy music-video version of "Memo from Turner" while wearing a dapper business suit, performing before a group of subservient mobsters (who stripped naked), and adopting a merged persona of both himself and Chas
  • the film's deadly conclusion: suddenly, Chas was confronted by his fellow gangsters, who told him: "We've got to be off, Chas. Harry's waiting for you"; as Chas prepared to leave, he told Pherber and Turner in bed 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
  • the 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, where Chas was walking (first seen from a rear view) toward a parked car; after he had left a note for Pherber ("Gone to Persia - Chas"), he entered the back seat of the mob boss' white Rolls Royce, where he was greeted: "Hello, Chas"; as the car sped off, a zoom-in through the car window revealed that Chas had been stunningly "transformed" into his doppelganger - Turner

Chas Vengeful Murder of Joey Maddocks ("I am a bullet")

Lucy (Michelle Breton)

Pherber (Anita Pallenberg)

Pseudo-Dream Sequence

Chas' Murder of Turner (a bullet's-eye zoom-in shot)

Chas' Departure - Now Transformed into Turner


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