I can't remember where I read this, or even whether the review in question was positive or negative. But one thing has always stuck with me. In a review of Rock 'n' Roll High School with The Ramones, the critic said that one day in the future, we would be watching TV and Rock 'n' Roll High School would come on. It made the future seem like a lovely place.
Last night, Performance turned up on TCM. It is the kind of movie I never expect to find on the TV, even with all of those channels we didn't have in the Rock 'n' Roll High School days. Oh, I remember once back in 2004, it was shown a few times on a now-defunct network, Trio, but that's it. I was surprised to see it on TCM, and of course I had to watch it.
The reason for the film's appearance is simple: Keith Carradine was participating in the TCM "Guest Programmer" series. Carradine's choices were fairly standard. He said he loves TCM and loves old black-and-white movies, and this is reflected in his choosing Captains Courageous and Random Harvest. He was asked to choose one of his own movies, and he selected Robert Altman's Thieves Like Us.
And, Performance. He admitted he wasn't sure TCM would go for it, although he said it's a classic, and TCM has the word "classic" in its name. Host Ben Mankiewicz joined Carradine in noting that the violence and sex in the movie was perhaps a bit more extreme than what one usually saw on TCM. But they showed it, nonetheless.
Carradine called the film "psychedelic noir", which is pretty good ... I think I'll steal that one in the future. I've been obsessed with the movie since I first saw it when it was released in 1970. I put it at #10 on the Fifty Fave Movies list I did several years ago, and I don't think that has changed. Rewatching it for the Fave Movies, I realized I was misattributing a lot of what I liked about the movie. In the early 1970s, when I was a film major, Nicolas Roeg was my favorite director. Since the movies he directed after Performance, Walkabout and Don't Look Now, featured a fractured style quite similar to Performance, I assumed it was Roeg that came up with the style to begin with. But we've learned a lot about Performance over the years. I wrote, in 2012,
What is interesting, in retrospect, is that I attached my devotion to co-director Nicolas Roeg, when at least two others were equally responsible for the style of the film. When Roeg went off to make his first solo-directing film, Walkabout, Donald Cammell was left to edit Performance into something acceptable for a recalcitrant studio. He worked with an editor named Frank Mazzola, who was uncredited. The two of them created the jagged style of the final product.
Last night, I was dragged in as always to the movie as it progressed. I've never tired of it. It was a nice gift to find it on TV.
Here is a short documentary about the making of the film, cut into three parts for YouTube: