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'Performance' (1970) : A Jerry Cornelius Film?

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  • 'Performance' (1970) : A Jerry Cornelius Film?

    Back in the early Eighties, Britain's new commercial TV channel, 'Channel 4' was fresh on the box, alternative and arty. They even showed a few previously unbroadcast psychedelic British films from the Sixties and Seventies. That was where I first saw 'The Final Programme' ('Carry On The Final Programme'?) and also Nicolas Roeg and Donald Cammell's, 'Performance' (1968, shelved for two years until 1970 and heavily edited). Starring Mick Jagger, James Fox, Anita Pallenberg and Michأ©le Breton, with a supporting cast of London actors playing gangsters and gangsters playing at being actors playing gangsters.

    'Performance' could be the ultimate British movie of the psychedelic Sixties. It is a film of two halves. The first half is a cold, hard and brutal gangster movie which follows in the wake of the then recent revelations of the doings of the Kray twins. The level of violence and explicit homo eroticism still has the power to shock 35 years later. The second half is a dark, claustrophobic, but gorgeously filmed, truly psychedelic trip into the most decadent bohemian excesses of 'Swinging London,' leading ultimately to a final destination.

    It's virtually a must see, though be warned, it's adult fare. It's one of of the most beautiful and dangerous films you'll ever experience. A real 'Fleur du Mal'.

    The directors: Nicolas Roeg seems to have directed the cinematography and Donald Cammell was the people person. Marianne Faithfull (who was originally to have played Pherber) said:
    '[email protected]'

    ... "Performance was a species of psycho-sexual lab run by Donald Cammell, and James Fox became prime experimental animal. ..."
    James Fox plays Chas, a top of the range gang enforcer whose perfectionist and brutal artistry makes him a performer hovering on the edge of crazy. He kills somebody he shouldn't have and is on the run from his own gang, looking for a hideout. He over hears a musician talking about 'Turner Purple', a burned out rockstar living like a hermit (apart from his two live in lovers) in his opulently rundown town house at 81 Powis Square, Notting Hill, London. Mick Jagger plays Turner, his perfomance is extraordinary, several reviewers have suggested that, apart from himself, he drew upon his fellow Rolling Stones, Brian Jones and Keith Richards for the performance. I like to think that 'Chas' the ultra straight outsider who Turner sets out to turn sort of represents Charlie Watts, the Stones' ultra cool drummer. James Fox turns in a rock solid performance as the psychotic, suppressed, loose cannon killer. But, could Jagger's burned out, rock star 'Turner Purple' really be Jerry Cornelius on a downer?

    Honey blonde Anita Pallenberg, originally the lover of Brian Jones and then of Keith Richards, plays Pherber. Her hothoused relationship with Jagger as Turner's amenuensis and long time lover went beyond just plain acting and nearly caused a serious rift between Jagger and Richards. Her full maneating potential also made her a memorable black haired 'Great Tyrant' in the movie 'Barbarella' (1968). An accomplished witch, by all accounts, she could have made a great Miss Brunner.

    I've found the resemblance to the Cornelius Chronicles, circa 'The Final Programme' to be so marked that I'm glad to find that others agree with me:
    [broken link]Michael Moorcock: Q&A Archive Article #3072
    June 23, 2003 Baal writes
    ... Now I come to read on down the archive, you mention that it might have been the 'Performance' team that did it[The Final Programme], if things had been a little different. Hmm.that's interesting because every time I see 'Performance', I think Jagger's like JC, Fox is like Frank and that that big house has the air of the fake Le Corbusier place. But to hell with that, what I've always wondered and never seen any commentary on, was how did you perceive the reception of the Cornelius quartet among the great and groovy, the aforementioned fabs, Jagger, Bowie and all those lot who have since bigged it up as an influence? I mean you were obviously hanging out with the kind-of UFO crowd and the dandy warholians an ting. ...

    June 23, 2003 Michael Moorcock replies
    ... Actually New Worlds didn't really go to the sf readership. Most of the genre readers hated it. It tended to go to the same people who read Oz and IT and so on. A lot of THEM thought that NW represented sf, of course. So, yes, they liked JC but, as I think you know, Jagger famously turned down the part because he said JC was 'too freaky'. ...
    And, thanks to recent posts on the MMWM MB, from editor of Fantastic Metroplis, Alan Moore in his introduction to 'Firing The Cathedral' puts his finger on it:
    fantasticmetropolis.com: Introduction to Firing the Cathedral by Alan Moore
    ...
    Easy mistake to make, the assumption that Cornelius was too much of his times, and not an impression he sought to correct. Every word and gesture, every article of clothing or accessory was so up to the moment that it risked rear-end collision. Parodying Ian Fleming's fetish for the listed brand name, he would end up inadvertently prefiguring the thousand-year Reich of the hot designer label. Many's the time you'd see him looking lost in Berwick Street, pacing in circles searching for the offices of International Times, dressed in a Glyn Jones car-coat, looking smart and solarised and Art Nouveau; or else some striking and magnificently vulgar number from Mal Dean's latest collection.

    The circling, elliptic dialogue was also of its moment, grown in the same Ladbroke Grove edifice basements as the looking-glass exchanges of Performance, in which Fox and Jagger lip-synch the sardonic, cryptic quips of vanished David Litvinoff. ...
    In order to survive as he navigates the time streams of the Multiverse, Jerry must keep up with the zeitgeist. He always has to be right in the thick of things, in with the in-crowd and leading the pack, even as he stands apart from the fray and surveys it with a cool and sardonic eye.

    Many influences have been put forward for the shaping of 'Performance'. Jorge Luis Borges'portrait turns up several times during the film and ultimately as the bullet passes into Turner's skull. Borges is cited as a major influence as regards the possible mutability and multiplicity of personality and the simultaneity of multiple experiences, all well reflected in Roeg's excellent cinematography and Cammell's fast, splintered editing. These are also themes extensively explored in the Jerry Cornelius novels.
    [broken link] Michael Moorcock: Q&A Archive Article #407
    October 24, 2000 Michael Moorcock replies,
    ... Both Ballard and I were great Borges fans and we promoted his work a lot in the 60s. ...
    So, there's a good chance of a common influence between the Cornelius novels and 'Performance' but it goes further than that. Turner's House is placed firmly in Notting Hill. Powis Square really exists, although there's no #81. It's only a few streets away from:
    [broken link]'Going To Londom' Thread
    Michael Moorcock posted
    ... "51 Blenheim Crescent is where Jerry was brought up by his mum.
    87 Ladbroke Grove is where New Worlds was published from (where I lived for years). "
    According to reviewers, critics and students doing Phds, apart from Borges, Kenneth Anger was an influence, as well as William Burroughs, referred to as "Doctor Burroughs" with his "jabs", by Pherber at one point in the film (both friends of Pallenberg and the Stones), Jean Genet, Vladimir Nabokov, etc. No mention of Michael Moorcock, 'New Worlds', or even the Jerry Cornelius comic strip in the 'International Times'.
    [broken link]Michael Moorcock: Q&A Archive Article #294

    ...Jagger turned down the part of Jerry in The Final Programme because he thought he was too freaky. (FP was then the next project of the Performance team). ...
    Cammell's penchant for dark satanic science fiction is evident in his 1977 movie, 'Demon Seed' (1977), in which a computer takes over the house and wife of its creator, rapes the woman and implants her with its seed to manifest itself as a living human incarnation. There are similarities to the plot of 'The Final Programme' where the object of the programme is to create the perfect human, a merger of Jerry and Miss Brunner, mergers of femine and masculine being part of the subplot of 'Performance' also.

    Then there's the case of the doodles. Quite possibly a nod in Jerry's direction:

    If 'Performance' isn't a Jerry Cornelius film, then there are certainly similiarities. Partly this is probably because both Jerry and Michael Moorcock frequented the same circles as the film makers and its stars. But, Jerry was there first. At a time when everybody else was floating off in clouds of petuli and flowery visions, Jerry had edges. I remember from reading the letter pages in some secondhand 'International Times' that not all the readers got the JC strip, but his mod-cool was recognised as ahead of the game by others. Jerry was way cooler, a counter culture hero pointing the way forward to the new Millenium and helping to shape what came after.


    Last Quotes:
    '[email protected]'

    ... Early in 1970, Cammell and Jagger sent a telegram to Ted Ashley, then president of Warners in America. "This film is about the perverted love affair between Homo Sapiens and Lady Violence," it read. "It is necessarily horrifying, paradoxical, absurd. To make such a film means accepting that the subject is loaded with every taboo in the book." ...
    'The Final Programme' (1966):
    "... A moment later, the world's first all-purpose human being strode eastward whistling.
    'A tasty world,' it reflected cheerfully. 'A very Tasy world.'
    'You said it Cornelius!'


    Michael Moorcock
    Notting Hill
    January 1965

    (I hope this is the right sort of thing for A Thread starter. If not feel free to shift it.) :)
    Last edited by Rothgo; 04-22-2010, 08:10 AM.

  • #2
    One of my all-time favourites, and a piece of social history. I must say I hadn't thought of the JC links - will have to ponder that. It's obviously a product of the same cultural milieux. Am I correct in thinking that Donald Cammell was a Crowleyite? It does remind me a bit of the little I've seen of Anger's work. The spirit of Hassan I Sabbah hovers over the whole enterprise. It's an interesting fact that the experience of making the film totally did James Fox's head in, so he became a Christian and didn't act for ten years.

    There's some stuff about the film in Iain Sinclair's "Rodinsky's Room", about the guy who was Cammell's link with the mob (they did their homework and the cast actually met up with these characters before filming). The stuff about androgyny seems to have been pretty cultural at the time - eg the Stones' image, Bowie appearing in a "man's dress" (as he put it) on the cover of "The Man Who Sold The World". It also has esoteric alchemical resonances.

    I see Chas and Turner as being essentially the same, although on a superficial level they are complete opposites. The whole thing is about the illusory nature of reality. I love the bit where Chas says "I'm normal, I am". I also laugh when he tells Jagger "You'll look stupid when you're 50" (!). But there's also a great death-wish in the film, which gives it some dark power. We've had long debates about whether and why Turner wants Chas to kill him. Is he in love with Chas? Does he have to die because he can no longer "perform"? Is life the final illusion? Jerry Cornelius isn't the same type of doomed character - he'll always keep bouncing back.
    \"...an ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home.\" James Branch Cabell

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Mikey_C
      ... Am I correct in thinking that Donald Cammell was a Crowleyite? It does remind me a bit of the little I've seen of Anger's work. ...

      I see Chas and Turner as being essentially the same, although on a superficial level they are complete opposites. The whole thing is about the illusory nature of reality. I love the bit where Chas says "I'm normal, I am". I also laugh when he tells Jagger "You'll look stupid when you're 50" (!). But there's also a great death-wish in the film, which gives it some dark power. We've had long debates about whether and why Turner wants Chas to kill him. Is he in love with Chas? Does he have to die because he can no longer "perform"? Is life the final illusion? Jerry Cornelius isn't the same type of doomed character - he'll always keep bouncing back.
      The family was Cammell, of 'Cammell Laird', the ship builders and Cammell's father knew Crowley well enough to write about him.

      Flickhead: Cinema Obscura: Ruminations on Donald Cammell & Nicolas Roeg and Performance
      By Ray Young


      ... There are enough romantic flourishes in Cammell’s life to warrant a full-scale biography. Born in 1934 under the prophetic eye of the Camera Obscura of Edinburgh, Donald was of the Cammells of Cammell Laird, a major shipbuilding concern. His father, Charles Richard Cammell, was an aesthete who contributed articles to miscellaneous periodicals — Scotsman, Connoisseur, and the Atlantis Quarterly: A Journal Devoted to Atlantean and Occult Studies — and wrote biographies of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Aleister Crowley, the latter a friend of the family. ...
      ...

      Does Turner actually die at the end? Major Spoiler Link!

      Comment


      • #4
        8O Have to think about that one...
        \"...an ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home.\" James Branch Cabell

        Comment


        • #5
          Well, I'm not the only one who's confused:
          K(enneth) A(nger): Uh-huh. [He points to the face on the cover photo.] This is my friend, Donald Cammell. Committed suicide. He directed Performance (1970). And the reason I chose him to play Osiris, the God of Death, was because he was always threatening suicide. And finally he did it. He blew his head off. Have you seen the film Performance?

          CR: Yes.

          KA: Well, you remember at the end Turner shoots himself in the head. And so finally Donald did it. And Donald wrote the script, and co-directed it with his photographer [Nicholas Roeg].
          http://www.ratso.net/anger.html
          Perhaps this just strengthens my view that
          I see Chas and Turner as being essentially the same
          :?: Demon Brother and all the rest of it? What's your theory?

          PS Reminds me of the arguments I have used to have about Bladerunner before the Director's Cut came out. Aren't some great chunks of Performance supposed to be missing as well? Buried under a motorway no doubt, or lurking in someone's shed! :lol:
          \"...an ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home.\" James Branch Cabell

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Mikey_C
            ...

            PS Reminds me of the arguments I have used to have about Bladerunner before the Director's Cut came out. Aren't some great chunks of Performance supposed to be missing as well? Buried under a motorway no doubt, or lurking in someone's shed! :lol:
            Canned for two years and chopped to shreds. Some of the sex scenes were so hot the film lab refused to process them and destroyed, or dumped them.

            If I remember right, some of the footage between Jagger and Pallenberg turned up at an Amsterdam Porno festival and won a prize.

            At least 4 different versions of the film have done the rounds, depending on whether for TV, or cinema release and on which country.

            What's posted above about Chas and Turner would fit Frank and Jerry without too much trouble. I'm not suggesting that 'Performance' is a straight take on the adventures of Jerry Cornelius, but that the adventures of Jerry Cornelius helped inform and shape the movie.

            Bold claim, I know. :)

            Comment


            • #7
              It certainly is an intriguing theory, and completely original as far as I'm aware.

              I just spoke to my partner on the 'phone about the end of the film - she suggested the idea of the doppelganger - if you meet your double it means death.
              \"...an ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home.\" James Branch Cabell

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Mikey_C
                It certainly is an intriguing theory, and completely original as far as I'm aware.

                ...
                Well, as Baal's correspondence with Mr M. shows, it's not really such an original theory.

                [broken link]

                :)
                Last edited by Rothgo; 04-21-2010, 02:52 PM.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Oh well - originality is an overrated virtue in these post-modern days! Fascinating post from MM there. I didn't realise that "The White Hotel" was plagiarised. Always found it a bit dodgy though. Fancy Jagger finding JC "too freaky"... Might have mucked up some of his parties with the aristos, I guess. There's a man with a foot in every camp.

                  Donald Cammell, though. What a tragedy. :(
                  \"...an ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home.\" James Branch Cabell

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I watched this film last night. Very interesting indeed. A real weird one!

                    "With a deep, not-unhappy sigh, Elric prepared to do battle with an army." (Red Pearls)
                    - Michael Moorcock

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Excellent necro-bump Lem!
                      Infinite complexity according to simple rules.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Thanks, Reinart!

                        I keep things in my mind for a long time, then suddenly I decide to check something out, out of the blue, like finding this movie.

                        I have all sorts of plans and ideas of things to do, to be performed when the time is right. Until then, I store all this fantastic forum information. It's a real education too see all these views, thoughts, subjects and art forms.

                        A real pleasure!

                        "With a deep, not-unhappy sigh, Elric prepared to do battle with an army." (Red Pearls)
                        - Michael Moorcock

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I watched the last episode of 'Ashes to Ashes', last night. If you've seen it. You'll know why I feel a bit damned, today.

                          I had the Devil's luck, tonight.

                          I headed for Utrecht, today. taking with me, only two MP3 players, a copy of, Terry Pratchett's 'Monstrous Regiment' and Mike's, 'Book of Martyrs'.

                          I couldn't find a copy of, 'Reasons to Be Cheerful', about Barney Bubbles, or part 6, of 'Buffy: Season Eight'. Although, I looked quite hard.

                          Then I probably smoked too much, drank too much beer and bought too many books.

                          Which books?

                          A copy of, 'The Laughter of Carthage', by Mike.
                          A copy of, The Yiddish Policeman's Union, by Michael Chabon.
                          Both from the, 'The Slegte'.

                          Then I bought a couple of the most recent editions of, 'Eppo', the, bi-weekly, Dutch, adult, comic magazine. I follow the new adventures of, 'Storm' and 'Haas', a Jewish resistance leader, disguised as a Protestant minister, in occupied Holland.

                          After that, I went a bit mad and bought,
                          'Mephisto', by Klaus Mann.
                          'Love On The Dole', by Walter Greenwood.
                          And a copy of,
                          ' Marco Polo: The Travels'.

                          I felt great. Bought some more beer.

                          Then, on the way back from one kreug. I popped into a specialist videotheek.

                          They didn't have, 'The Final Programme' and they only had, 'Performance', on tape. But, I did pick up a BFI DVD copy of Jean Luc Goddard's, 'one Plus One' ('Sympathy For The Devil').

                          I felt even better. I drank some more. Spoke in various tongues. Howled musical encouragement at the saxophonist of a blues band and headed for home.

                          I'm watching it now.

                          I will probably suffer for it, in the morning.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            'One Plus One' is all very Situationist and also v.pretentious, I might add.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Pietro_Mercurios View Post
                              I watched the last episode of 'Ashes to Ashes', last night. If you've seen it. You'll know why I feel a bit damned, today.

                              I had the Devil's luck, tonight.

                              I headed for Utrecht, today. taking with me, only two MP3 players, a copy of, Terry Pratchett's 'Monstrous Regiment' and Mike's, 'Book of Martyrs'.

                              I couldn't find a copy of, 'Reasons to Be Cheerful', about Barney Bubbles, or part 6, of 'Buffy: Season Eight'. Although, I looked quite hard.

                              Then I probably smoked too much, drank too much beer and bought too many books.

                              Which books?

                              A copy of, 'The Laughter of Carthage', by Mike.
                              A copy of, The Yiddish Policeman's Union, by Michael Chabon.
                              Both from the, 'The Slegte'.

                              Then I bought a couple of the most recent editions of, 'Eppo', the, bi-weekly, Dutch, adult, comic magazine. I follow the new adventures of, 'Storm' and 'Haas', a Jewish resistance leader, disguised as a Protestant minister, in occupied Holland.

                              After that, I went a bit mad and bought,
                              'Mephisto', by Klaus Mann.
                              'Love On The Dole', by Walter Greenwood.
                              And a copy of,
                              ' Marco Polo: The Travels'.

                              I felt great. Bought some more beer.

                              Then, on the way back from one kreug. I popped into a specialist videotheek.

                              They didn't have, 'The Final Programme' and they only had, 'Performance', on tape. But, I did pick up a BFI DVD copy of Jean Luc Goddard's, 'one Plus One' ('Sympathy For The Devil').

                              I felt even better. I drank some more. Spoke in various tongues. Howled musical encouragement at the saxophonist of a blues band and headed for home.

                              I'm watching it now.

                              I will probably suffer for it, in the morning.

                              I would have liked to have been along for that adventure!

                              Sounds like fun!

                              How do you like Book of Martyrs so far?

                              "With a deep, not-unhappy sigh, Elric prepared to do battle with an army." (Red Pearls)
                              - Michael Moorcock

                              Comment

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