If you need a way into the film, the music is a perfect door. Jack Nitzsche has put together a fantastically appropriate score, drawing heavily on Delta blues, electronic music and Stones-rock. The music, like the rest of the film, runs mostly beneath the surface. Jagger sits hunched over his J-200, singing to Charles and whipping John Lee Hooker blues runs from the guitar: "Come on in my kitchen, you know it's raining outdoors." The song which opens and closes the film is taken from an old blues by King Solomon Hill, "Gone Dead Train," and Charles' theme is "Staggerlee," beautifully finger-picked in the standard key-of-D Tom Paley version.
Mixed in with the bottleneck blues, Nitzsche has included some of the most incredible electronic music I have encountered in a film since Ken Anger's Invocation of My Demon Brother (which was Moog Synthesized by Jagger). Apparently, Jagger does not play the Moog in Performance, but whoever does has really got his chops together – the hissing, whining, crashing rhythms of the electronic score seem almost too effective for comfort.
And then there is "Memo From T," the Jagger/Richards song which constitutes the final ritual in Turner's ceremony of possession. At the showing I attended, the audience burst into spontaneous applause as the song began, not because it was Jagger or anything, but just because the tension had been raised to such a point that a Stones' song was the only way to get out of it. Whew! There is no credit for Jagger's backup band, but it simply has to be the Rolling Stones – nobody else could keep up with him.
Performance is a first-film for directors Cammell and Roeg, and they emerge with flying colors. I don't know what Cammell has done before, but Roeg photographed Masque of the Red Death for Roger Corman, and Fahrenheit 451 for Francois Truffaut. He is also credited with cinematography for Performance, and his camera work is largely responsible for the hallucinatory quality of the film. The editing, too, is acid-like. One of the film's strongest points, in fact, is its tightness, its unity. Everything in it (music, acting, photography, editing) moves together in a beautifully orchestrated crescendo to peak in white light/black death.
Use Only As Directed: One of the attributes of evil is its ugliness, and on one level Performance is a very ugly film. Hallucinatory though it may be, I would not recommend seeing it while tripping.
This story is from the September 3, 1970 issue of Rolling Stone.
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