Friday, January 21, 2011

Performance, or What the Fuck.


Adding in screechy sounds and flashing between scenes does not make a film "experimental." It makes the film annoying to watch.

You have a world class rock star in your film. Your film is being released the same year as a pivotal rock documentary about the band which the rock star fronts. Said band will release Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, and Exile on Main Street within three years--arguably three of their best albums in succession so it seems the rock star is ready to rock. Make the rock star rock. He's not an actor. He's a rock star. That's brought to painful light by the two scenes in which said rock star does rock

But, while you should let the rock star rock, you should not let the rocker's groupie write the film. Or have a supporting role.

And you most certainly not have an interesting storyline to taunt your viewers while you fuck with that interesting storyline to make it "experimental." The movie seems to have something interesting at its core--just the dichotomy of the sex scenes is worth discussion but the nonsense that overlays the whole film destroys the smart it could have been.

So why did we have to watch this? Apparently the author of 1001 Movies watched a different movie and assumed this one was cool.

The author notes, "the utopia of Woodstock had given way to the hell of the Rolling Stone's Altamont debacle--captured in the 1970 concert film Gimmie Shelter. Performance starring Stones singer Mick Jagger as a debauched aging rock star only heightened its cultural impact ('You'll look funny when you're forty,' remarks James Fox's Chas to Jagger's Turner)." First problem is that the line is "You'll look funny when you're fifty." (Yes, I made sure to double check my hunch). Second problem is that we have a non-specific pronoun--"its cultural impact." What is "it" exactly? Woodstock? Altamont? Gimmie Shelter? Performance? Mick Jagger's aging debauchery (even though he was only 24 when the film was made and 27 when it was released)? I can figure out that the author probably means Performance but how? How about an explanation? And how did a film that was and is still obviously heavily edited--because I saw nothing that should make a film executive's wife vomit--have such a cultural impact?

Next nit to pick? This: "Turner [Jagger] and his Sapphic crew." Do two women and a random gender non-specific child a "crew" make?

Ok, so to more substantial concerns. The author states, "By the time the story plays out, nothing (and no one) we've seen is necessarily what we thought it was." Um, yeah it is and they are. The only ambiguity in the film is exactly how absurdly ambiguous the film is going to try to be. But there is never any actual ambiguity other than the gender of that child. Even the pretend gender-bending allusions created by Jagger and his French girl doppleganger are not ambiguous (the French girl is apparently in another "experimental" film is I dislike, Week End).

The author claims the above supposed ambiguity is because, "Cammell's script and Roeg's camera keep everything off kilter, not just through skewed drug logic but also through overtly and intentionally confusing editing, punctuated with startling bursts of violence." The trouble is that, ultimately, that off kilter confusion is just an easily diffused smoke screen. Nothing actually happens and no one is actually hard to figure out. They act like drug addled fools and that is forced on the viewer but it does not keep the viewer off kilter

And, the author concludes, "Frequent drug-fueled hallucinations drive Performance toward it's mind-bending conclusion, when art and identity intersect and the line between fantasy and reality finally blurs into oblivion." No. No. No. The end is not mind-bending. Yes, it is unclear who is in the car at the end. But, in the end, it doesn't actually matter. You have one dead guy in the house and another guy getting in a car to go to his certain death. So, who cares which is which? No one. Even if it is a bigger attempt at a mind-fuck and the dead guy in the house isn't dead but is in fact Chas who is now going to lead Turner/Jagger's "Sapphic crew" of two and the "Chas" getting in the car is actually Turner/Jagger who is going to be reinvented as a performance artist who shoots people in the head, who cares. No one. Not one person.

What I would have rather seen is the movie under the faux-drug smoke screen with just one shot of Keith Richards sitting in the car across the street because his groupie baby mama whom he stole from band mate Brian Jones was apparently not acting in those sex scenes with Jagger.


  1. Hah! Sounds like the making of this movie would have been a lot more entertaining and interesting than the movie itself! When I read that description in 1001, I was thinking that the movie would turn into one of those "all in their head" twists. Though I hate that genre, it would have been at least innovative for its time and better than what actually happened. The whole identity angle was simply stated rather than demonstrated or explored or any of those things we tell our freshmen to do in essays. My guess is the chick vomited when all those doughy middle-aged gangsters stripped.

  2. Ugh. It was TOTALLY a freshman essay. One where they think they're super smart and know all of the rules so they can break them and be "edgy."

    HA! I bet that's when she vomited!