FILM / John Lyttle on cinema

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Performance is a strange movie and not merely because it's a stoned re-run of The Servant; sado-masochistic East End gangster James Fox hides out with reclusive rock star Mick Jagger and his hot and cold running girlfriends (Anita Pallenberg and Michele Brenton, right) and finds his identity blurring under a barrage of rock music, dope, make-up and bisexuality.

Now, this is weird, but still not as weird as the picture boasting two directors - Nicolas Roeg and Donald Cammell - and the way the material's polymorphous perversity not only comments on the decade just departed (the Sixties) but predicts the era to come: the Seventies, ready to run the gamut from glam to punk (Performance has a nasty barrow-boy taste for violence).

Who are we to credit with such sensitivity for this fleeting moment in the affairs of men? Certainly not the shocked Warners executives who pre-empted the censors by savagely cutting the film until it made even less sense than in its original form. Nic Roeg? We're getting warmer. His insular, impacted Bad Timing, the fragmented story of a relationship gone sour, certainly covers similar terrain and uses a rock star (Art Garfunkel), as does the free-floating The Man Who Fell to Earth (David Bowie).

But let us not forget that Donald Cammell wrote the script and that the neglected White of the Eye (1987), his one movie since Performance, also employs the subliminal imagery and multiple flashbacks that most would say signal the Roeg 'style'. Another clue: White of the Eye is about a serial killer some four years before Silence of the Lambs and some seven years before Kalifornia and Natural Born Killers. Cammell is a man with a gift for the zeitgeist. . .

Performance: NFT1, South Bank, SE1, 8.45pm tonight

(Photograph omitted)

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