Rockins Heroes Part 4: Performance (Film)
“The only performance that makes it, that really makes it, that makes it all the way, is the one that achieves madness” (Performance, 1968).
A fascination with gender and the body permeates the air throughout Performance. The hazy eye of the camera drifts across the lithe bodies of the cast, who are swathed in silk scarves and kaftans, covering their gendered physiques.
When Performance was produced in 1968, filming was almost completely shut down after backers Warner Bros witnessed the infamous bath scene; the drug taking and sexual promiscuity was unashamedly open. Directed by Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg it starred Mick Jagger and Anita Pallenberg. The film was eventually released in the USA two years later, to minimal apprecation. On the contrast, in January 1971, it was released in London to critical acclaim and enjoyed commercial success, with some claiming it was the cult film of the 1970s.
Throughout the film, Turner (played by Jagger) is dressed in a series of guises; sometimes dressed in loose kaftans and beads, other times, overtly masculine in black leathers and pompadour hair. Each outfit represents a facet of his character’s personality. He is showing that gender can be created; anyone can prove his or her masculinity by dressing to fit the part, it is performative. Whilst clothes and costume are integral to the nature of the film, they are treated as transient; clothes are thrown on as quickly as they are thrown off, and with them, the mask of gender.
The leading female parts were played by Anita Pallenberg and Michele Breton who represent an altogether ‘1960s’ attitude to beauty, in particular Breton, with her flat boyish chest and willowy legs. Pallenberg oozes confidence and mystery, playing with her identity in order to attract and seduce. She possesses the qualities of a flirtatious female combined with the confidence and fearlessness of a male, free and open with her body.
‘I’ve got two angles, one male and one female. Just like a triangle see…. Do you never have a female feel?’ (Anita Pallenberg in Performance, 1968).
When it was released in 1970, Performance appeared to be a surreal, and somewhat disturbing account of the life of two figures searching for their true identities. Yet in reality, the film was perhaps more true to real life than most thought, undoubtedly in its costume, décor and aesthetics. Perhaps Performance is more than just a stylized and surreal piece of work; it is essentially a ‘bible’ of the times and serves as a constant source of inspiration for our handcrafted silk scarves here at Rockins.
We absolutely love the Performance Soundtrack, you can listen to it here:
Get the Performance look with our ‘Flora’ Classic Skinny Fringed in Ivory