Performance (Donald Cammell & Nicolas Roeg, 1970)

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Lino
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#51 Post by Lino » Fri Feb 09, 2007 10:56 am

DVDTalk

Anita Pallenberg gets interviewed in the featurette! Yes!

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#52 Post by Lino » Sat Feb 10, 2007 1:35 pm


Anonymous

#53 Post by Anonymous » Sun Feb 11, 2007 9:11 am

Looks like a great transfer! I can't wait to get this DVD and throw my old bootleg away.

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#54 Post by Gordon » Sun Feb 11, 2007 1:47 pm

I watched Performance last night and it remains a fascinating film. I had forgotten how bold James Fox's performance was and how casual the violence in the film is, but also how amusing it all seems - it's a crazy piece of work! Great transfer from Warner, as ever, though I would have loved a stereo or 5.1 remix. The new interviews in the making-of featurette are very interesting, though input from Roeg would have been the icing on the cake. I didn't know that the image in the gunshot was of Jorge Luis Borges - and I call myself a fan! :oops:

It's great to finally have this one on DVD and I hope that Warner releases more of their British classics this year.

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#55 Post by kinjitsu » Sun Feb 11, 2007 2:35 pm

Gordon wrote:I didn't know that the image in the gunshot was of Jorge Luis Borges - and I call myself a fan!
I'm certain it is, also, Turner reads from Borges and Rosie is reading one of his books.

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#56 Post by Anonymous » Sun Feb 11, 2007 3:29 pm

Colin MacCabe (who appears on the DVD featurette) wrote a magnificent BFI book about the film, filled with lots of fascinating information and background as well as some gorgeous stills.

For my money, PERFORMANCE is one of the three greatest films ever made in Britain. The other two are THE RED SHOES and THE DEVILS.

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#57 Post by thethirdman » Sun Feb 11, 2007 5:53 pm

This has been one of my favorite films since I viewed it in a class in college on London and 1960's. I also have a long-standing fascination with William S. Burroughs and Jorge Luis Borges. However, I always felt the many attempts to show the influence of Burroughs and Borges in the film were too conspicuous and heavy-handed.

I am surprised that I have not read more reactions to the missing "Here's to Old England!" line from the Memo from Turner sequence in the reviews appearing in the last week or so. That is one of the key lines in the entire film and crucial to the mirroring theme of the film. I have always considered that scathing line to be the climax of Performance rather than the gunshot at the end.

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#58 Post by Anonymous » Sun Feb 11, 2007 6:50 pm

Professors trying to explain influences and traces of Burroughs and Borges in PERFORMANCE are most often very pretentious. Burroughs and Borges were indeed influences for Cammell, very important ones, but in the finished work their artistic sensibilities float around the imagery in a very lyrical way. There is no clear Burroughs-moment in PERFORMANCE that one can present, it's more like his and Borges' spirits surround the film (as esoteric as that may sound).

Anyway, PERFORMANCE remains the most inventive and groundbreaking thing Nicolas Roeg has ever worked on. As much as I admire the guy's later work I can't help but think that working under Cammell was the best thing that ever happened to him. What remains very underrated in the film are the performances. Not only is James Fox absolutely fabulous, but so are Mick Jagger and Anita Pallenberg.

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#59 Post by Ste » Sun Feb 11, 2007 7:28 pm

Stan Czarnecki wrote:For my money, PERFORMANCE is one of the three greatest films ever made in Britain. The other two are THE RED SHOES and THE DEVILS.
if.... and Straw Dogs would get my vote, but I appreciate the sentiment.

Anonymous

#60 Post by Anonymous » Mon Feb 12, 2007 9:43 am

Ste wrote:if.... and Straw Dogs would get my vote, but I appreciate the sentiment.
STRAW DOGS is British? I didn't know that, but then I can't stand the film anyway.

But IF.... certainly is a masterpiece!

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#61 Post by NABOB OF NOWHERE » Mon Feb 12, 2007 12:27 pm

kinjitsu wrote:
Gordon wrote:I didn't know that the image in the gunshot was of Jorge Luis Borges - and I call myself a fan!
I'm certain it is, also, Turner reads from Borges and Rosie is reading one of his books.
The image is in fact from the 1968 Cape edition 'A Personal Anthology' that Rosie is also reading.

Yes, I am the Paganini of piffle.

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#62 Post by leo goldsmith » Mon Feb 12, 2007 12:49 pm

Stan Czarnecki wrote:Professors trying to explain influences and traces of Burroughs and Borges in PERFORMANCE are most often very pretentious. Burroughs and Borges were indeed influences for Cammell, very important ones, but in the finished work their artistic sensibilities float around the imagery in a very lyrical way. There is no clear Burroughs-moment in PERFORMANCE that one can present, it's more like his and Borges' spirits surround the film (as esoteric as that may sound).
We just did a Cammell retrospective at NotComing.com, and it was great to finally see Performance after reading about it for so many years. I agree that one can make too much of the Burroughs and Borges influences: I think Cammell like the former's way of structuring things and the latter for his semi-mystical approach to the modern world. But I'm not convinced it goes a great deal deeper than that, although I'd love to read a more in-depth consideration. Cammell has noted that Kenneth Anger's films were as much an inspiration as these other two, and I see that influence much more easily.

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#63 Post by Gordon » Mon Feb 12, 2007 4:57 pm

NABOB OF NOWHERE wrote:The image is in fact from the 1968 Cape edition 'A Personal Anthology' that Rosie is also reading.
I was just never sure who it was supposed to be in past viewings of the film - on VHS, small TVs - and the image is so fleeting. I recently read The Total Library and it was quite an experience! His contemporary reviews of Citizen Kane and King Kong are very interesting, indeed. He seems to have been an ardent fan of Cinema and I wonder if he ever saw Performance?!

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#64 Post by leo goldsmith » Mon Feb 12, 2007 5:06 pm

Here's a little more info on Borges and Performance. The Cammell interview snippet is very provocative and the quotation below it speculates about which Borges is most useful here, but the reading of the film in light of Borges is a little insubstantial. (The writer says that Borges's influence on the film is "obvious," but only sites the framed picture and the recurrence of copies of his books as examples.)

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#65 Post by nazarin » Tue Feb 13, 2007 9:50 pm

leo goldsmith wrote: Cammell has noted that Kenneth Anger's films were as much an inspiration as these other two, and I see that influence much more easily.
If you could provide the bibliographic reference to this quotation I'd very much appreciate it. Many thanks.

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#66 Post by kinjitsu » Tue Feb 13, 2007 10:51 pm

Maximilian Le Cain at Senses of Cinema wrote:Cammell is quite explicit about the film's origins: Kenneth Anger was the major influence at the time I made Performance

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#67 Post by leo goldsmith » Wed Feb 14, 2007 12:39 am

... which unfortunately lacks a footnote. Does anyone know if this is from The Ultimate Performance?

Anonymous

#68 Post by Anonymous » Wed Feb 14, 2007 8:19 am

Invocation of My Demon Brother and Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome are - stylistically - Cammell's most important influences, although he turns Anger's psychedelic style into something very much his own.

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#69 Post by nazarin » Wed Feb 14, 2007 10:28 am

Too bad that there's no attribution to the quotation in the article at Senses of Cinema. A contrasting view is provided by Peter Wollen in an article on Performance, who argues the primary influence was William Burroughs' "cut-up" method of invention.

The Umlands, in their book Donald Cammell: A Life on the Wild Side (FAB Press, 2006), observe that the editing style was greatly influenced by John Boorman's Point Blank, released in the UK the last week of December 1967, while Cammell was writing Performance. They also say that the soundtrack to Invocation of My Demon Brother provided by Mick Jagger was done using a patch made for Jagger on the Performance set (a Moog Series III modular synthesizer), so rather than direct influence it might be a matter of the particular synergy of the time. A discussion (and history) of the synthesizer used in Performance can be found in Trevor Pinch and Frank Trocco, Analog Days: The Invention and Impact of the Moog Synthesizer (Harvard University Press, 2002).

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#70 Post by kinjitsu » Wed Feb 14, 2007 12:48 pm

leo goldsmith wrote:which unfortunately lacks a footnote. Does anyone know if this is from The Ultimate Performance?
nazarin wrote:Too bad that there's no attribution to the quotation in the article at Senses of Cinema. A contrasting view is provided by Peter Wollen in an article on Performance, who argues the primary influence was William Burroughs' "cut-up" method of invention.
Barry Miles wrote:The final edit was based to an extent on the random cutting-up in Antony Balch and William Burroughs's 1962 film The Cut Ups. Although credited entirely to Cammell, Performance's screenplay was written on the beach at St Tropez by Cammell, Roberts and Anita Pallenberg. (At one point, a gust of wind blew the whole script into the sea and Anita had to iron each page to dry it out.) Collaboration was a strong part of the Sixties ethos and was Cammell's favoured method of working; it was a way of avoiding his self-destructive tendency to sabotage whatever he was doing.
According to Colin MacCabe in his Bfi monograph on the film, several direct and indirect influences are evident, including Anger, Artaud, Borges, Burroughs, et al.
Colin MacCabe wrote:The Shoot:

The 60s were, in general, the decade in which representation came under attack. Happenings and situations, the breaking down of the divide between actor and audience; this was the currency of the era. Like much else of that period, the intellectual impetuses often stretched back to the Parisian avant-garde of the 20s. In this case, the crucial figure is Antonin Artaud whose thought is consciously echoed in Performance's single most famous line, when Turner tells Chas: 'The only performance that makes it, that really makes it all the way is the one that achieves madness.'

The Edit:

William Burroughs was a figure that Cammell had come across both in Chelsea and Morocco (there is a direct reference to him in the film when Pherber wonders whether they shouldn't call Dr Burroughs to deal with Chas). Burroughs had spent much of the 60s developing his cut-up techniques in which material (be it text, tape, or film) was cut up and recombined at random. The aim of this procedure was to discover connections and parallels which the conscious mind, too mired in the world of meaning, was not able to see. The cut-ups could provide access to levels of textual significance that escaped more conscious manipulation. This technique was also close to the methods used in Kenneth Anger's Scorpio Rising which was another key reference point for Cammell.
Furthermore, if one is at all familiar with Antony Gibbs' work, it's evident, at least to these eyes, that he undoubtedly had a major hand in developing the film's editing style.
Colin MacCabe wrote:This extraordinarily complex editing style is divided into two different periods by the exigencies of what was becoming a legendarily difficult studio production. The first stage was in London after the shoot has finished. The first editor, who had screened the rushes at such length, was replaced by Antony Gibbs whose credits included Taste of Honey, (1961), Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962), and Tom Jones (1963).
Not to mention his extraordinary work on Richard Lester's Petulia (1968), which was shot by none other than Nicholas Roeg.
Last edited by kinjitsu on Thu Feb 15, 2007 6:24 pm, edited 5 times in total.

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#71 Post by zedz » Wed Feb 14, 2007 5:31 pm

Stan Czarnecki wrote:Invocation of My Demon Brother and Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome are - stylistically - Cammell's most important influences, although he turns Anger's psychedelic style into something very much his own.
I agree that there's a strong Anger influence on Performance, but the specific citation of Invocation of My Demon Brother is problematic, since that film was not completed until 1969, and Performance was shot in '68. To a large degree, they're contemporaneous projects, as nazarin notes, so it's natural for both to express the same zeitgeist.

The issue of authorship is worth further exploration. I'm happy to consider Performance as primarily Cammell's film, but it's also clearly a leaping-off point for Roeg's later work, in terms of subject matter (protagonists thrown into a threatening, alien environment), editing technique and visual motifs. This is also presumably why the film has so often been attributed primarily to Roeg: not only was he a much more visible filmmaker, but there were clear 'authorial' traits it shared with his films.

But one thing I find very interesting about Roeg (at least in his 'best' / most distinctive work) is how his directorial 'personality' can be defined in terms of the use of motifs and techniques 'borrowed' from other people's films on which he worked. The distinctive, fragmentary editing style of his 70s work seems to derive from Lester's Petulia and Cammell's (if we agree that he, and not Roeg, was the architect of that film's editing style) Performance. The emblematic / symbolic use of the colour red is a striking feature of several of Roeg's films as cinematographer (e.g. The Masque of the Red Death, Farenheit 451), and one would assume that Roeg had little say in what colour the blood plague or the fire engines were to be in either of those films.

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#72 Post by pemmican » Wed Feb 14, 2007 6:26 pm

I find it bizarre that "Here's to Old England" is snipped and I DO think it's an important line - it asks the viewer to apply what the film is saying on a much broader scale. It seems vaguely scandalous and cowardly that it was snipped - whatever could the reason be? Stuff like this annoys the hell out of me!

That said - I haven't actually SEEN the DVD yet, and am only going on the word of the early reviewer who says its been cut... maybe he just had a glitchy copy?

P.

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#73 Post by Anonymous » Wed Feb 14, 2007 6:41 pm

zedz wrote:
Stan Czarnecki wrote:Invocation of My Demon Brother and Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome are - stylistically - Cammell's most important influences, although he turns Anger's psychedelic style into something very much his own.
I agree that there's a strong Anger influence on Performance, but the specific citation of Invocation of My Demon Brother is problematic, since that film was not completed until 1969, and Performance was shot in '68. To a large degree, they're contemporaneous projects, as nazarin notes, so it's natural for both to express the same zeitgeist.
You're right of course, I forgot the exact shooting dates. Well Anger and Cammell certainly shared a lot of sensibilities as artists. One could say that they both defined the so-called psychedelic film at exactly the same time.

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#74 Post by foggy eyes » Wed Feb 14, 2007 8:35 pm

kinjitsu wrote:According to Charles MacCabe in his Bfi monograph on the film
At risk of sounding pernickety, it's Colin. I only flag this up because the monograph is excellent!

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#75 Post by kinjitsu » Wed Feb 14, 2007 10:53 pm

foggy eyes wrote:
kinjitsu wrote:According to Charles MacCabe in his Bfi monograph on the film
At risk of sounding pernickety, it's Colin. I only flag this up because the monograph is excellent!
Corrected. And the book is sitting right here. Persnickety!

For some reason or other, I must have been thinking about Charles McCabe, the San Francisco columnist. An acid relapse, no doubt.

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