Performance is a British film made in 1968 but not released until (1970). It is directed by Donald Cammell and Nicholas Roeg.
Chas (James Fox) is a "performer," an ultra-violent enforcer for an East London gang led by Harry Flowers (Johnny Shannon). Chas is involved in a particularly brutal attack that the boss has not specifically requested which angers Flowers. When the boss brings up the problem to Chas, pointing out that his enthusiasm has made him forget who he works for, Chas decides to leave his boss' employ. Being a mobster, Flowers is not particularly keen on this idea so he sends some hitmen to punish Chas for his impudence. After they brutally torture Chas, he murders one of them. As a result, Chas goes on the run, both from the police and from his former colleagues. Chas dyes his hair red and finds himself "a perfect little hidey hole" in the basement of a house owned by a reclusive, eccentric washed-up former rock star named Turner (Mick Jagger) who lives there with his female friends Pherber (Anita Pallenberg) and Lucy (Michele Breton). Chas and Turner are initially repelled by each other, but come to see that the worlds of the rock star and the gangster are not as different as they first appear.
Performance was initially conceived by Donald Cammell as "The Performers" and was to be a lighthearted swinging 60's romp. At one stage, Cammell's friend Marlon Brando (with whom he later collaborated on the posthumously published novel "Fan Tan") was to play the gangster role which became "Chas". At that stage the story involved an American gangster hiding out in London. As the project evolved the story became significantly darker. Cammell was heavily influenced by the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges (a portrait of Borges can be seen at a crucial moment in the film) as he redrafted the script to create an intense, intellectual film dealing with issues of identity crisis. Cammell and co director Nicolas Roeg also benefited from a lack of interference from Warner Bros. studio executives, who believed they were getting a Rolling Stones equivalent of the Beatles' A Hard Day's Night (1964). Instead, Cammell and Roeg delivered a dark, experimental film which included graphic depictions of violence, sex and drug use.
The film has gained notoriety due to the difficulties it faced in getting on screen. The film's content was a complete surprise to the studio. It has been reported that during a test screening, one Warner executive's wife vomited in shock. The response from the studio was to deny the film a cinematic release. It has been claimed that at one stage Warner Bros. wanted the negative to be destroyed.
Performance was finally released in 1970 after several recuts and changes in Warner's administration.
The film was released on DVD for the first time on February 13, 2007.
 Critical Reputation
On its release the film received mixed reviews to say the least. Most reviewers focused on the graphic sexual elements. One reviewer (Richard Schickel) described it as “the most completely worthless film I have seen since I began reviewing.” Throughout the late '70s and '80s Performance gradually acquired a cult following on the late night and repertory cinema circuits. By the 1990s the film had undergone a complete critical reappraisal. In 1995 Performance appeared at number 28 in an "all-time greats" poll of critics and directors. After Cammell's death in 1996 the film's reputation grew still further. It is now frequently cited as a classic of British cinema.
When Performance was released, several aspects of the film were extremely innovative, and historically it can be seen as a precursor to MTV type music videos and many popular movies of the 1990s and 2000s. This movie has a soundtrack with The Rolling Stones, Ry Cooder, Randy Newman, The Last Poets, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Merry Clayton.
Performance was the first feature film to employ the cut-up technique (although the technique was employed in experimental shorts in the 1960s and 1970s, most notably by Antony Balch). Directors Cammell and Roeg also went on to use this technique in their following movies, before it became commonplace in popular cinema.
The gangster aspect of Performance has been imitated by many popular directors such as Quentin Tarantino, Guy Ritchie, Jonathan Glazer and more.
Performance pushed boundaries by featuring extremely explicit sex scenes and use of drugs, both which have been rumoured to be real instead of simulated. Although Andy Warhol's (and other underground filmmakers') films had featured such behaviour before Performance, it was unheard that such things appeared in a major studio production.
Big Audio Dynamite's song "E=MC²" includes extensive dialogue samples from Performance. The song Further Back And Faster by Coil also samples dialogue from the film.
Happy Monday's second album, Bummed, features several songs inspired by the film, including "Moving In With', "Performance", and "Mad Cyril". "Mad Cyril" is explicitly inspired by the film and included the following dialogue samples:
"I like that, turn it up"
"It was Mad Cyril!"
"We have been courteous"
"I need a bohemian atmosphere"
Also inspired by the movie were the '79 Mod Revival act, Secret Affair whose East End following known as 'The Glory Boys' were based on the South London gangsters portrayed in the film and was the title of their first 20 top album.
In keeping with the intellectual bent of Jagger's character, legendary Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges is quoted numerous times during the film