cinematographer style

fter helming two Hollywood productions that focused on the process of growing up—an imaginative adaptation of the children’s novel A Little Princess (1995) and a modern-day spin on Dickens’s Great Expectations (1998)—Cuarón returned to Mexico to make an altogether more explicit kind of coming-of-age film. In Y tu mamá, two horny adolescents (Diego Luna and Gabriel García Bernal) decide to escape their native Mexico City, along the way picking up a mysterious married woman (Maribel Verdú) with whom they form an increasingly intense erotic and emotional bond. Both a critical and box-office sensation, the film not only confirmed Cuarón as one of Mexico’s most exciting contemporary auteurs, it also launched Luna and Bernal to international stardom and helped crystallize the hovering handheld style that cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki would take to dazzling new heights in his later bigger-budget collaborations with the director. 

For those in Illinois this weekend, see Alfonso Cuarón’s sultry road movie Y tu mamá también at the Wilmette Theatre!

anonymous asked:

I'd like to make roleplayable gifs of my own for some FCs I like, but I'm not sure how or where's the best way to crop them (is it too close? too much extra space?). Could you give some tips or show some examples of how/where to crop gifs so they look best?

Here is a comprehensive mini-guide to FRAMING GIFS!

Keep in mind that sometimes, depending on the video and the cinematographers style, it’s going to be hard to get a ‘good’ crop. I’ve run into this problem a lot while gifing work from Lars Von Trier

Lets use Lydia Martin from Teen Wolf as an example.

Here is what the original frame looks like, with no cropping (or sharpening/coloring - I’m lazy) . The gif size is 245 x 137

Keep reading

10

“Performance” 1970  Directed by Donald Cammell, Nicolas RoegFEATURING: James Fox, Allan Cuthbertson, Anthony Morton, Stanley Meadows, Mick Jagger, Helen Booth, Kenneth Colley, Anita Pallenberg, Ian McShane, Ann Sidney, Anthony Valentine, John Bindon, John Sterland, Johnny Shannon, Laraine Wickens, Michèle Breton, Michèle Breton

full movie

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYM-LqbkpNc


“Perhaps the last genuinely exotic fruit produced by the bizarre mutations of British society in the 1960s.”
Alexander Walker, Hollywood England: The British Film Industry in the Sixties, 1986

“I like a bit of a cavort,” says Chas (James Fox), amoral wide boy on the run who hides out in the rambling Notting Hill pad of rock god Turner (Mick Jagger), merging identity with his host and hangers-on as he is inducted into their insular bohemian lifestyle.

Influenced by Ingmar Bergman’s Persona (1966) and the films of Alain Resnais, Performance introduced the fractured storytelling and editing style of cinematographer-turned-director Nicolas Roeg. Co-director and screenwriter Donald Cammell can be credited for the mind-bending, debauched tone, which so outraged Warner Bros that the studio shelved the film for two years. The use of colour is extraordinarily vivid, while the soundtrack incorporates Jack Nitzsche’s unnerving score alongside songs that include Jagger’s Memo from Turner.

Donald Cammell directed only three more features before his death in 1996. Sexy Beast (2000), also featuring James Fox, stands out among many films influenced by Performance.

This psychological crime thriller finds Chas (James Fox) as a crook on the run from the law. He hides out at the house of Turner (Mick Jagger), a rocker who lives with Pherber (Anita Pallenberg) and Lucy (Michelle Breton). Sexual situations and sadism prompted the original X rating, that was later rescinded to R. Randy Newman conducts the music of Jack Nitzsche for this psychedelic psychodrama……

James Fox and Sandy Lieberson: how we made Performance

James Fox, actor
Playing a gangster was quite a departure for me. I’d mostly played upper-class types. But I’d hung out with Donald Cammell, who wrote the screenplay and co-directed, and I think he’d seen a side of me that said: “James is a raving nutcase, so let’s steer him in the direction of the East End and see what happens.”

James Fox: ‘I didn’t take that much acid’
Read more
And it worked: I fell in love with my character, Chas Devlin, a south London gangster. I prepared for the role very seriously, even visiting Ronnie Kray in Brixton prison. The meeting was quite formal, though – what we really needed was to talk to people on the outside. Much more useful, to perfect the manner and accent, were my visits to the Thomas A Becket pub on Old Kent Road with Johnny Shannon, who played gang boss Harry Flowers. John Bindon, who once dated Christine Keeler and had a role as a violent mobster, also had underworld connections.

Nic Roeg was the other director, and it was his first film. He had a wealth of experience as a cameraman, and I thought the Notting Hill basement scene – in which Chas tries to ingratiate himself with the reclusive rock star played by Mick Jagger – was especially well shot. I already knew Mick and counted him as a friend, but he didn’t take acting very seriously, so you were working against that.

I think he and Anita Pallenberg, who had a big role, were entering a relationship at this time and, as I was basically playing the straight guy and sticking to the script, they liked to use this to shock me. But it was a wonderful film to make, way ahead of its time in terms of gender and identity, offering glimpses into the worlds of rock stars and criminals that were much talked about then but little understood.


Sandy Lieberson, producer
I’d been an agent for the likes of Peter Sellers, Richard Harris and Sergio Leone, but by 1968 I wanted to make the leap into production. Performance was my first film. Donald Cammell originally envisaged Marlon Brando in the Chas Devlin part, but that was always a bit of a fantasy. We were pretty sure James Fox could pull it off, having seen him in films like The Servant.

Mick Jagger was on board from the start, and he brought to the role all the fame and notoriety that was attached to his own name at that time. We wanted to exploit his unusualness, the androgynous sexual aura that hung around him – something that’s harder to appreciate now that he’s a grandfather and such a figure of the establishment.
We didn’t use a studio; everything was done on location. The betting shop scenes were shot on the New Kings Road, and our technical adviser, David Litvinoff, turned out to be a crucial conduit to the whole East-End criminal scene, having been Ronnie Kray’s lover. He arranged for James to visit Ronnie Kray in jail.

We ended up with a non-linear plot because, when I took the rushes to Warner Bros, they hated it. They didn’t think it was releasable, and they sat on it for about nine months. Nic had gone off to make Walkabout, so Donald had to go out there to work on a recut, which introduced the Jagger character earlier, while also toning down the violence and the insinuation of homosexuality, even though it was never graphic.

The movie premiered in Los Angeles, and it was a total disaster. The ratings board originally gave it an X certificate, at a time when major movie companies had a pact not to distribute X-rated films. For a while, my career was in the toilet. I can’t recall if, as has been said, a Warner executive’s wife vomited at a screening – but somebody did throw up at one in Santa Monica and they stopped the show. I felt like I’d gone from being a fairly successful agent to a failed producer, but after that I started producing with David Puttnam, going on to make That’ll Be the Day.

Performance eventually found a small audience in the US, but it was never a commercial success. Only later did it build a reputation. It was a product of its era: back then, you could make an unusual movie without worrying about things like revenue projection. It was a more impulsive, chance-taking time. …Interviews by Jack Watkins…….

“Performance” is a bizarre, disconnected attempt to link the inhabitants of two kinds of London underworlds: pop stars and gangsters. It isn’t altogether successful, largely because it tries too hard and doesn’t pace itself to let its effects sink in.
But it does have a kind of frantic energy, and it introduced Mick Jagger in a role that reinforced his stage image without copying it. The movie is really about images anyway. On its most fundamental plot level, it’s about a gangster (James Fox) who is trying to disguise himself so that he can slip out of England on a forged passport. He meets the Jagger character by accident when he takes a basement room in a boarding house.
Jagger is introduced as a top star of two or three years ago who has “retired” and hidden away to work on his memoirs or something. Mostly he seems to have submerged himself in a hedonistic existence with two girls, a variety of drugs, and a cloying assortment of Eastern artifacts. Almost every shot in his apartment is aimed past candles, incense, wall hangings, tapestries, and all that, and half the time we’re even getting the Turkish rug reflected in the mirror.
This is not exactly the environment your everyday white-collar gangster feels at home in, but Fox plays a strange character who never feels at home anywhere. His workaday style is to beat and threaten potential “protection” customers. But despite his enthusiasm, he isn’t really accepted even by the boss (every gangster has a boss) and his associates. So Jagger’s little corner of London seems much like any other to him, affording a hideout until he can get the passport and fly to New York.
Alas, Jagger doesn’t see it that way, and over the course of a day or two, the gangster is sucked down into a psychedelic whirlpool with Jagger and the two girls. One of them feeds him a hallucinogenic mushroom, after which the other dresses him in the unisex clothes they all wear, and then we get a lot of obligatory psychedelic photography showing the poor guy losing his identity, or his values, or in any event his inclination to escape.
The movie is so nervously edited that it doesn’t stay around to develop the effects it introduces. That was a tendency with many semi-experimental British films of the early seventies; they were so concerned with reminding us they’re movies that they don’t do the work movies should. The first half of the movie is especially distracting. But after the gangster and the pop star meet, the editing and the story settle into a kind of consistency.
The surprise of the movie, and the reason to see it, is Mick Jagger’s performance. It isn’t simply good; it’s a comment on his life and style. The ads emphasized his unisex appearance, and the role does so even more. When he slicks back his hair during a psychedelic fantasy, and seems to adopt the gangster’s lifestyle, we’re looking at acting insights of a very complex psychological order. Other than that, the movie is neither very good nor very bad. Interesting….by…Roger Ebert………

A tagline for Performance, released in 1970, described the movie this way:

“This film is about madness. And sanity. Fantasy. And reality. Death. And life. Vice. And versa.”

It’s a tagline of great accuracy. Few films have focused so obsessively on the idea of fusion. And no gangster film ever made unfolds quite like Performance does. It begins by plunging you into the East End London criminal underworld and the violent activities of a professional gangster named Chas (James Fox). For about half the film, you are immersed in his existence as an enforcer for a London gang. But when Chas, on the run after angering his boss, has to hide out, the film takes you into a completely different realm. This realm is a drug-filled bohemian household inhabited by the fading reclusive rock star Turner (Mick Jagger) and the rock star’s two housemates Pherber (Anita Pallenberg) and Lucy (Michèle Breton). How these two polar opposites, the hard macho gangster and the fluid seductive rock star, affect and change one another, is the crux of the film.

Performance originated with Donald Cammell. Born in Edinburgh in 1934, he was a precocious child who was painting and drawing by the age of three. By the early 1950’s, he was a successful society portraitist based in the affluent Chelsea section of London. Cammell could have continued in this vein indefinitely, but he chucked his burgeoning career as a society painter to pursue artistic satisfaction in the vibrant, more modern world of film. The 1968 heist film, Duffy, starring James Fox, Susannah York, and James Coburn, features a script by Cammell, but the final film was a far cry from what Cammell intended. The story revolves around two English brothers who with the help of the American hippy Duffy plot to rob their father. The original script centers around young Parisian hipsters and deals with crime, betrayals, and sexual escapades. In retrospect, the germ of many ideas that would sprout in Performance are in evidence. But Duffy became watered down during its filming, and Cammell’s protests as his script got changed resulted in him being kicked off the set. A distasteful experience, to be sure, but one that made Cammell resolve to direct his own script the next time out.

He would wind up co-directing, though of his own volition. Armed with a treatment for Performance and partnered with first time producer Sandy Lieberson (who had been his agent), Cammell asked Nicholas Roeg to be his cinematographer. At this point Roeg was the foremost cinematographer in Britain. He’d worked on Roger Corman’s Masque of the Red Death (1964), Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451 (1966), and Richard Lester’s Petulia (1968), among others. Roeg said that he was now only interested in shooting films if he could also direct them, so Cammell suggested that he co-direct. Roeg accepted. And so even at a fundamental filmmaking level, Performance became an act of fusion, with two brilliant filmmakers, albeit novice directors, working as one.
Who contributed more, Roeg or Cammell? Who was the main guiding force behind Performance? The question is moot. Though Cammell, no question, came up with the idea and oversaw the script, he and Roeg wholly collaborated during the shooting. Cammell would deal with the actors and Roeg would concentrate on lighting and camera placement, but every night they would discuss the shoot, Roeg talking about the performances, Cammell about his visual ideas. As Colin MacCabe says in his book about the film, Roeg has described the shoot as “a sort of secret collaboration of our own brains”, a time when their “personal egos fused into one” and they were “so secretly close” and they “supported each other in manipulation.” Remarkable how much these descriptions sound like the relationship between Chas and Turner, two who also experience a merger of their minds and egos.

Performance was shot in 1968. In London during this time, Cammell moved socially in the city’s two most exciting “scenes”. One was the criminal world dominated by the celebrity twin brother gangsters Ronald and Reginald Kray. Cammell didn’t know the legendarily ferocious pair (front page material in Britain for years), but friends of his knew the Krays well and helped him write and shape the Performance script, adding underworld authenticity. The other area of great dynamism was the world of rock and roll, exploding then with its sense of danger and sexual abandon. Cammell knew Mick Jagger and Anita Pallenberg before casting Performance; they both were his friends and Pallenberg contributed also to the screenplay. Attuned to the energy of his time, Cammell had the brilliance and audacity to want to make a film that would unite these two charged worlds, transgressive worlds, and the more real life players, non-actors, he could get from each, the more authority his film would have.
Paramount in creating this reality on the gangster side is the casting of Johnny Shannon, who plays Harry Flowers, the gang boss Chas upsets. Johnny Shannon was a former boxer who often hung out at the Thomas a Beckett pub in South London. James Fox found him there when he was researching the London criminal classes for his role and Shannon, though no criminal himself, introduced him to many of the criminal friends, “chaps,” he hung out with at the pub. Shannon helped coach Fox in the accent and manner of an East End gangster, and Cammell and Roeg, decided just before the shoot started to put Shannon in the movie. The result was a new representation of British crime on film. Before this, as many have pointed out, the most common picture of the London criminal came from fogbound Victorian-era villains. Fagin comes to mind, and the criminals in the Sherlock Holmes stories. But Johnny Shannon’s Harry Flowers, modeled on Ronnie Kray, is late 20th century working class to the core and in your face about it. He’s calm and assertive—not ashamed of his lower class background—and he knows how to use words. He emphasizes for Chas that Chas works not for him, Flowers, but for “the business”, and when describing the protection rackets he runs, he employs all sorts of circumlocutions to describe the violence his gang shells out. No need to be barbaric, even if he is in a rough profession. He’s a thoroughly modern gangster, and as such, a figure that would influence scores of British cinematic gangsters to come, from Bob Hoskin’s Harold Shand in The Long Good Friday to Ian McShane’s Teddy Bass in Sexy Beast.
James Fox, of course, was a star before Performance, but he had mostly played upper class roles, a reflection of his real-life background. For his Performance research, he moved into a flat in the rough and tumble Brixton neighborhood, and during the day he would train with the boxers who frequented the gym above the Thomas a Beckett pub. It took time for the refined Fox to adapt to his new surroundings, but by the time the shoot began, he had the severe haircut and physique of his new criminal class acquaintances and even had taken to wearing suits from the gangsters’ favorite tailor. He was Chas, the hard man, a frightener, somebody who puts “a little stick about” for his boss. Violence saturates Chas’ world, violence pervades the first half of Performance. When in bed with a woman, Chas is rough; he destroys an establishment that has declined Harry Flowers’ protection; he threatens a lawyer defending a man whose testimony could harm Flowers; he and his cohorts bound and gag the lawyer’s chauffeur, then pour acid on the lawyer’s car and use a straight razor to shave the terrified chauffeur’s head. He does all this with a ferocity and even wit that shows a passion for his work, and it’s clear to all who know him that he likes his job too much. He’s described as a “right nutter” by one man and “an out of date boy, an old-fashioned boy” by another. Flowers himself calls him a “performer” and asks who in the hell he thinks he is, the Lone Ranger? “I know who I am,” Chas replies, an important comment in light of where the film will go. Chas has no doubts about himself as a man or where he stands in the world, but that all changes in the film’s second half when he has to flee his gang after killing someone Flowers told him not to bother.

There’s a Mars Bar on the stoop of the decrepit Notting Hill mansion Chas takes refuge in—this is a reference to the Redlands drug bust of 1967, when Jagger and Keith Richards were arrested and rumor had it that the police found Marianne Faithful with a Mars Bar inserted in her genital area—and inside the mansion, Chas finds even odder things. Indeed, no cinematic gangster has ever ended up in a hideout as strange (or as enticing?) as the one inhabited by Turner and his two beautiful housemates.
At first Turner is repulsed by his new surroundings: “It’s a right pisshole,” he says, with “long hair, beatniks, free love, druggers”. And Turner tries to return his rent money so that Chas, clearly not a bohemian type, will leave. But Chas starts to become intrigued by the sexual vibe permeating the place (the threesome scene between Jagger, Pallenberg, and Breton is one of the most erotic scenes you’ll ever see in a mainstream film), and the powerful energy of the gangster comes to fascinate Turner, a rock star who ”has lost his demon.“ The hard man starts to soften, the androgynous man to harden, faces overlap. And Chas barely knows how to deal with the teasing and taunting and prodding of Lucy and Pherber. A man who could smash up betting parlors and fight his way out of an ambush is at sea with these two free spirits.
And like two true spirit guides of the era, they accelerate his transformation through drugs. Mushrooms, to be precise, and lots of them. The sight of a zonked Chas, decked out in a shimmering robe, a woman’s wig on his head, with eyeliner on, is a far cry from the brutal picture of masculinity we saw in action during the film’s first half.

What exactly happens at the film’s end? That’s open for debate. But one thing at least is clear. The film ends on a perfect note of synthesis. It’s not that Chas has subsumed Turner or that Turner has subsumed Chas. The last face we see in the film indicates a hallucinatory merger.

Warner Brothers released Performance in 1970 but not before a monumental battle between the studio and the filmmakers. The first completed cut, presented to the studio in autumn 1969, outraged Warner’s. The film’s sex and violence, extreme for the time, bothered them, but what angered them most was that a movie starring Mick Jagger didn’t show Jagger until halfway through the film. What was the point of having the rock superstar in the movie if for half the movie the audience had to sit through a revoltingly violent gangster flick? This cut was edited in London, and the studio refused to release it. They ordered a new edit and this edit would have to be done in Los Angeles, where they could more closely supervise it.

Neither Sandy Lieberson nor Nicholas Roeg could go to Los Angeles because both were about to start new projects (Roeg’s was the film Walkabout, his first solo directorial effort). The news that the editing would be done in Los Angeles was ominous; it suggested endless studio meddling. But Cammell went to LA to recut the film and while there, though given a hostile studio editor to work with, he managed to find an editor he meshed well with, Frank Mazzola. He and Mazzola then proceeded to follow the studio’s instructions—in a way. Ordered to speed up the film’s first half and to get Jagger into the film earlier, they devised a method of very rapid cutting, something akin to William S. Burroughs’ literary cut-up technique. Footage they had of Turner spray painting a wall in his house they interspersed in the film’s first half, without any explanation. The superfast cutting they used lessened the amount of actual sex and violence on screen but only served to make the film more intense and radical. It’s part of what makes the film still work today. Ironic, since these cuts would not have been done if the studio had accepted the original, more conventional cut.

(This promotional film highlighting Jagger’s involvement was shown to Warner Bros execs and then to worldwide distributors.)
Also added in Los Angeles was the final layering of the soundtrack, arranged and partly composed by Jack Nitzsche. The ”Memo from Turner“ music video scene with Jagger singing was already in the film, but Nitzsche is the one who provided a new sound, the electronic synthesizer. The instrument as such didn’t exist yet, but Nitzsche got access to a prototype and brought it to the recording studio to provide the film’s electronic stings. They go perfectly with the film’s editing style. But again, the studio’s demand to bring the editing to Los Angeles to tone it down resulted in the film becoming more strange and challenging. Now you had a first half with realistic gangster violence edited for maximum, disorienting intensity and a second half full of mind games and sex play and also featuring casual drug use (Pallenberg injecting heroin into her derriere and calling it a ”vitamin shot“).

There would be still more struggles before the film got released, including the legendary test screening in Santa Monica in 1970, where one executive’s wife supposedly vomited and the audience voiced its loathing so loudly the film had to be stopped and people’s money returned. Warner’s was sold at this time and a new studio head, John Calley, took over. He agreed to release the film. Still, the new Warner’s president, Ted Ashley, despised it and wanted yet more cuts made. Finally Donald Cammell wrote a telegram to Ashley, and both he and Mick Jagger signed it. The telegram says that Performance is about ”the perverted love affair between Homo Sapiens and Lady Violence“ and adds that ”if Performance does not upset audiences then it is nothing.“ Hard to put it any better than that.

Some forty years on, Performance retains its ability to confound and disturb. Its editing techniques have been emulated by many, and of course lots of films since have had more extreme violence. But there is something about the film’s authenticity that keeps it from dating, and its formal daring, the mixing of the gangster part with the sex/drugs/rock/psychological journey part, remains fascinating. This is a film I’m sure that Guy Ritchie, Quentin Tarantino, and many others who work in the crime/gangster genre have thoroughly studied, though it has none of the eye-winking cleverness of a Ritchie film and none of the ”this is a film about other films“ tone of Tarantino. It has an immediacy that makes you feel as if you are in 1968 London, a gripping quality of hallucinated reality. It is both a great British gangster film and a film that, as Marianne Faithfull said, ”preserves a whole era under glass.“…..by……SCOTT ADLERBERG………

PHERBER: What do you think Turner feels like?
CHAS: I don’t know. He’s weird, and you’re weird. You’re kinky.
PHERBER: He’s a man, a male and female man!

–dialogue from Performance
Chas, a sadistic associate gangster who terrorizes local businesses for London crime kingpin Harry Flowers, is forced to go into hiding when he kills one of his boss’ allies. He rents a basement from Turner, a former rock icon caught in creative doldrums, now living as a hermit in a luxurious town house with two beautiful live-in girlfriends and a never-ending supply of dope. Turner initially wants to get rid of Chas but gradually grows fascinated by him, sensing that the thug’s energy might help him break out of his artistic slump, and he begins to make over Chas in his own image.
BACKGROUND:

Donald Cammell, a former painter turned screenwriter, wrote the script and directed the actors. Nicolas Roeg, already a sought after cinematographer for his work on films such as The Masque of the Red Death and Fahrenheit 451, supervised the film’s visuals. It was the first directing credit for either.
Donald Cammell took his own life in 1996 with a bullet to the head.
Warner Brothers agreed to distribute the movie solely because rock star Mick Jagger was attached to the project.
The role of Chas was written with Marlon Brando in mind. Depending on whom you ask, Brando either declined the role, or the producers decided he could not play a convincing lower-class Brit. James Fox, a rising young actor known for his posh upper-class persona, studied actual London gangsters to get down the Cockney accent and criminal mannerisms.
Fox, in his acting prime at the time of Performance, suffered a nervous breakdown after filming (reportedly brought about by a the combination of his father’s death and smoking the powerful hallucinogen DMT with Jagger) and did not act again for 8 years after completing the movie.
Tuesday Weld and Marianne Faithfull were the original choices to play Pherber, but Pallenberg, a model and Rolling Stones groupie (then Keith Richards’ girlfriend), was brought in after Weld was injured and Faithfull became pregnant.
Nicolas Roeg recalls seeing members of the film development lab destroying “intimate” scenes of the film “with a fire axe,” apparently believing they had mistakenly been sent illegal hardcore pornography to develop.
Jack Nitzsche composed much of the score on the ninth Moog synthesizer ever built (the Moog probably belonged to Jagger: the Rolling Stones had been
one of the first rock groups to include a synthesizer on their 1967 album “Their Satanic Majesties Request”).
The movie was completed in 1968, but shelved for two years after a disastrous test screening at which audiences yelled at the screen and walked out of the theater. A studio executive’s wife reportedly vomited from viewing the graphic violence, and audiences were offered their money back. The movie’s eventual release was delayed for two years while the film was re-edited; much of the violence was trimmed, and Mick Jagger’s first appearance was moved forward in the film to appease Warner Brother executives. Roeg has already left for Australia to make Walkabout and was not involved in the final cut.
In order to compress the beginning of the film, partly so that Jagger would appear onscreen earlier, editor Frank Mazzola created the fast crosscutting montage that begins the film. “I knew I’d have to slide things back and forth or extend something to make it hit on a note or a frame,” the editor recalls. “I could do three or four or five of those cuts and bang!, it was perfect, like a beat… You could do anything to that film and it would work, because of the way it was happening. It was
poetry, it was organic…”
Among the cuts later demanded by the British censors was a scene of Fox being flogged, intercut with a scene of him making love to a woman digging her fingernails into his back.
Performance was savaged by critics on its initial release, but its reputation has improved over the years. In 2009 Mick Jagger’s Turner ranked number one in Film Comment’s poll of top film performances by a musician.
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Even before Anita Pallenberg feeds James Fox hallucinogenic amanita mushrooms on the sly near the climax, the crazed editing of the first half, which cuts back and forth across time and space without warning while setting up the tale of Chas’ fall from gangster grace, is so trippy that it’s almost completely disoriented us. Performance is almost exactly what you would expect to see if you matched a couple of smart, artsy, experimental directors to an eccentric half-amateur cast of drug addicts in 1968 and the set’s caterers fed the crew a diet of nothing but hash brownies and magic mushrooms for the entire shoot.

COMMENTS: When you notice a bullet shattering a portrait of Jorge Luis Borges on the way through a victim’s skull (in the second of Nic Roeg’s fantastical tracking shots inside a character’s head) you realize exactly how fond writer/co-director Donald Cammell was of the Argentine writer (at another point in the film, a raving Jagger gives a shout-out to “Orbis Tertius” as well as other madnesses about “the tetrarchs of Sodom” and so on). Despite his obvious reverence for the poet laureate of paradoxes and labyrinths, however, the wild-eyed Performance couldn’t be much farther from the lean discipline and esoteric clarity of a Borges story (if you want to see the equivalent of one of Borges’ playful philosophical parables on film, look to Charlie Kaufman instead).  Cammell’s script, with its hallucinogenic stream-of-consciousness style, is much more reminiscent of another, earthier hep writer, William S. Burroughs. Cammell throws out references to not only Borges and Burroughs, but also to Aleister Crowley, Antonin Artaud, and Eastern philosophy, along with shards of Jung for good measure; it’s as if he’s intent on working his entire bookshelf into the script, at least the dangerous and decadent tomes. None of these ideas are synthesized into a coherent argument; they zoom about and collide off one another and bounce off at strange tangents, just like the free-floating ideas circulating around intellectual circles in the late 1960s. In that age, any thinker whose words could be used to support a philosophy of principled debauchery, who could offer a quote useful in bedding a buxom grad student or a seducing a zoned-out seeker, had instant credibility.

I don’t mean these observations as an attack on the script or the film: they are offered as a way of understanding how this wild, crazy, pretentious monument to hedonistic excess perfectly captured the zeitgeist of the smart-but-stoned set circa 1968. The movie captures the intellectual confusion and intoxicating energy of the Swinging Sixties as well as any ever made. It’s Performance‘s romantic impression of an era where it was reasonable to believe that any guy might one day accidentally stumble into a mad rockers mod pad and tumble into a threesome with a French runaway and a German model while dropping acid, discussing Egyptian occultism and listening to the Last Poets bongo-fueled calls for black revolution that gives the movie it’s strange coherence.

The movie begins with an astonishingly edited sequence that cuts back and forth between a limo driving down the road and Fox having rough sex with a floozy; weird, doom-laden electronic beats play, and as the lovemaking climaxes the cutting back and forth between machine and flesh becomes so rapid that the images merge into a strobe effect. After a short dramatic break the man whose love life we’ve been following, Chas, climbs into the limo with his cohorts and is off to work, but almost immediately we see another black car pull up to an almost identical row of brownstone buildings as the one he’s just left; we’re disoriented because a new character, a barrister, steps out of the car and heads off to a court of law. We then alternate scenes between Chas shaking down a taxi-dispatch office for protection money and the lawyer defending a rich man accused of masterminding a case involving stock fraud in a merger attempt. Scenes jump back and forth in time as Chas visits Harry Flowers, the big boss, while the attorney drones on (accompanied by electronic squiggles from the score’s Moog). The jagged, jumbled narrative of the opening is not constructed merely to confuse and alienate the audience: if establishes the themes of duality and merger that will dominate the story once Chas meets Turner.

As the first act goes on, the confusing edits grow farther apart, and the story flattens out into a gangland tale that rates as many people’s favorite part of the film (despite it’s psychedelic credentials, Performance is also sometimes credited as the genesis of the British gangster film). The violence on display was unprecedentedly brutal for the time, even after the massive cuts demanded by Warner Brothers and the British censors. After kingpin Flowers makes an independent bookie (and personal enemy of Chas) an offer he can’t refuse, the hothead enforcer endangers the criminal merger by taking matters into his own hands. The victims turn the tables, and the result is that Chas absorbs a massive beating and endures grimy underworld-style torture in a room that’s been vandalized with splattered red paint (to camouflage the flowing blood). His tormentors underestimate Chas’ talent for violence, however, and the thug manages to escape them; but in doing so he signs his own death warrant with the organization, and is forced to go on the lam.

The middle sequence, where Chas makes his way into Turner’s basement hideout, marks the film’s weakest segment; the film is biding its time until the final fireworks. This sequence functions to set up the duality between Chas and Turner. Fox works hard in the first half of the film to create a character with a powerful air of invulnerability, but Jagger, sneering in lipstick, has an instant presence from the moment he first appears (omitting the humorously incongruous scenes of the star spray-painting a wall that Warner Brothers insisted be inserted into the first half to assure audiences that the rock idol really was in the movie). It quickly beomes obvious that Chas is out of his depth among the Bohemians, and his Cockney confidence looks increasingly unjustified as he tries to fool the hippie trio into believing he’s a juggler waiting for his equipment to arrive. Sexy secretary Pherber immediately puts him off guard with her casual wordplay and the way she leans back and caresses the fur coat pooled around her crotch as she negotiates the rent. Turner starts out uninterested in and unimpressed with the juggler; he tries to give him his rent back and convince him to leave the premises with a simpering display of disdain, blaring guitar licks from the speakers while Chas tries to explain himself and strutting about in his trademark Stones style, spouting fragments of poetry and wielding his microphone like a homophobe-slaying blade. Turner, a semi-retired rock star undergoing a creative crisis, eventually relents and decides to let Chas stay on in the basement, intrigued by the gangster’s desperation to stay somewhere he’s unwanted. An erotic lesbian sex scene and a three-way bath in Turner’s spacious tub establish the aura of decadence and liven up the connective tissue of the second act, but it’s all a setup for what’s to come.

Turner (who’s “lost his daemon,” according to Pherber) intuits the violent energy inside Chas and determines to metaphorically crack open his head and feed on the energy inside. The predator becomes the prey, especially when it turns out that Chas needs something from the bohos: a Polaroid camera so that he can make a fake passport for himself to escape from the killers scouring England for him. This gives Pherber and Turner the opportunity to play dress up with Chas, pretending to help him remake his image as a performer, while slipping him a nearly fatal dose of magic mushrooms. Chas, a criminal expert but a psychedelic novice, falls under their influence almost immediately, particularly when voluptuous Pherber demonstrates her boudoir skills as a friendly gesture. She probes his personality and more, dressing him up in a longhair wig so that he starts to look like the androgynous Turner and challenging his masculinity by holding up a mirror against his chest so that he sprouts her breasts. The drug trip allows Roeg to deploy visual tricks with lighting and montage while Cammell writes lines like “the only performance that makes it all the way is the one that achieves madness!”

The highlight of the trip sequence, and of the film, is the song “Memo from Turner,” where Turner’s persona merges with that of Chas’ boss, Harry Flowers, inside the refugee’s head. The lyrics are Dylanesque (“I remember you on Hemlock Row in 1956/You’re a faggy little leather boy with a smaller piece of stick.”) The sudden musical number comes out of left field, and it’s pleasantly jarring; it helps that the tune is memorable, and that Jagger’s trademark aggressive ambisexuality blasts the clothes off square middle-aged gangsters in the course of the song. “Memo from Turner” isn’t the movies’ first rock music video, as is sometimes claimed (don’t people remember the Beatles?), but it is one of the most impactful. For many viewers, “Memo from Turner” was Performance‘s take-home moment, the sequence that sticks in the mind years later. Quite possibly, Jagger’s performance here salvaged the film for a good number of viewers, particularly those who only came to see the singer in the first place.

Performance ends with a confusing and mysterious surrealistic bit where Chas and Turner’s identities completely merge. I wouldn’t inquire too much into what that might mean, or what the entire movie might mean, if I were you. Compared to Performance, Eraserhead is a textbook example of thematic clarity. “What a dreadful question, what do I think of it, what’s it all about,” said David Cammell, the brother of co-director Donald and an associate producer if the film, in response to an interviewer’s question in 2007. “I don’t know. Do you know what it’s about?” Nicolas Roeg himself stressed that “after all this time, [Performance]’s mystery is part of it’s magic and attraction.” The film’s trailer less than helpfully explains that it’s about “madness… and sanity… fantasy… and reality… and sensuality…” That “sensuality” part, of course, may be the most important key to Performance‘s appeal. The film serves us a lot of meaty but undercooked themes, and we might get intellectual salmonella from chewing it over too carefully. Primary among the movie’s mysteries is the title: what’s meant by “performance”? Chas’ work as a thug (Flower’s refers to his mob job at one point as a “performer”)? Turner’s art? The undercover bit where the gangster pretends to be a juggler? All of life? There’s also a lot of focus on duality and merger, the confusing suggestion that Turner and Chas are two parts of the same person, throwaway considerations about the relationship between madness and art, and Jungian suggestions that the gangster is an out-of-balance hyper-man who needs to integrate his feminine side into his personality to complete himself. (Of course, when Chas does finally accept his girlish bohemian side, it leads almost immediately to his death—maybe the message is that it’s a good idea to keep our personalities unintegrated for as long as possible).

Still, lets return to that sensuality the trailer mentions. Who can doubt that a major part of Performance‘s attraction is the wish-fulfillment fantasy of putting ourselves into that cozy little artificial paradise shared by Turner, Pherber and the French waif (and later Turner)? It’s got everything anyone could ever wish for: luxury, sex, an awesome selection of vinyl, top end speakers, leisure, companionship, books, irresponsibility, a nightly light show directed by Nicolas Roeg, and a big enough variety of intoxicants to keep everyone in a permanent giggly euphoria. It’s a hippie heaven even the straightest of us long to pay a visit to in our daydreams, and enduring film’s “awful decadence” looks like a tiny price to pay for fulfilling that fantasy. How can we not love a movie where a flash of light suddenly reveals that the craggy silhouette of a mountain we think we’re seeing is actually Anita Pallenberg’s erect nipple? This Performance may not be profound, but it’s certainly a lot of fun.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…a bizarre, disconnected attempt to link the inhabitants of two kinds of London underworlds… The surprise of the movie, and the reason to see it, is Mick Jagger’s performance… Other than that, the movie is neither very good nor very bad. Interesting.”–Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times (contemporaneous)

“…an arrogant, needless slap at our viewing sensibilities, an odious, amoral work, its oozing decadence as manifest behind the camera as it is on the screen. That it is a personally successful rendering of a personal vision is probably true, but it certainly is no labor of love.”–Danny Peary, Cult Movies

“…this cultiest of movies is so much more than the sum of its parts, being an intricately detailed, kaleidoscopic signpost to the 1960s burn-out, with all its glorious hobbyhorses, pretensions and madnesses on show.”–Ali Catterall, Film 4 (video)


Hey everyone, this is my part of an artrade with Alba.

Here are Erika, Guilaume and Unai from Snuff 7pm, a webcomic about kids in highschool making a snuff movie, with a sensitive and cinematographic aesthetic in the style and narrative, you should go read it !

Here is her part of the trade :D

vimeo

Unedited dailies from 2004 interview with Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC from the film “Cinematographer Style.”

youtube

Cinematographer Style is a film about the art of how and why films look the way they do. It is about the influence of style, technique and technology-the art and craft of filmmaking – the lesson being that there is no textbook and no rules for artful cinematography. It is an art-like painting, writing literature or composing music. No two artists express themselves in exactly the same way. This is a must-see film for writers, directors, producers, actors and others who collaborate with cinematographers, and also for journalists and film buffs. It will provide valuable insights into the art of cinematography and filmmaking. The body language, animated facial expressions and eyes of 110 great storytellers projected on a big screen in order to fully appreciate the words and deeply held feelings about their art. ARRI, Kodak, Technicolor, and many other organizations and individuals volunteered their support and services.


3

Jonathan Brown: I had the opportunity to work with Vittorio here in Los Angeles, and I would pick up Mr. Storaro at the hotel on Sunset every morning, and I’d drive him to work. And I would ask him a question about, maybe composition, or a certain scene we were doing today, and then I would get a 30 or 40-minute lecture—it felt like a doctorate—on composition or color or Yugoslavian primitive art, or whatever it was that was his inspiration for that film.

John Schwartzmann: I can remember with Vittorio, bringing my light meter and a sketchbook around, and he used to just berate me, and he’d say, “That’s not what it’s about, it’s from the heart. It’s about the emotion.” And I thought to myself, “Yeah, yeah, that’s all good and well, you’re Vittorio Storaro!”

Vittorio Storaro: I was always Vittorio Storaro, even at my beginning. When I started, nobody knew me. I think that you should be always yourself, from when you start, or when you are on the journey, or when you think you reach one specific place. That’s part of your personality, part of your way of thinking, part of your way of doing. Many times, young cinematographers tell me, “Yes, you can do that, refuse a project, or maybe do one selection in your life, because you are now this kind of person.” I always did that. I remember on the first film, Giovinezza, giovinezza, and I was doing tests for actors, and we were like your crew, a small crew working in a very simple way, just trying to understand what the movie’s supposed to look like. So now, I find myself uncomfortable for what the director asked me to do, and I was forced to do it, and at the end of the day—I was 28—I say to him, “Goodbye, I don’t think I’ll come back tomorrow, because I don’t think you need me. You need someone to just put up one light just to see whatever is in front of you, but not in a particular way that you want to see this person. So I don’t think I’ll come back tomorrow.” I was married two years before, we already had one daughter, and my wife was expecting a child, and we had only $50 in the bank, and I said “No.” It was wonderful, and I was Vittorio Storaro then, on my first film.

Cinematographer Style (Jon Fauer, 2006)

Status report

Slowly recovering from yesterday’s excitement.

After full battery of tests, retinologist advises eyeball is not in danger of falling out, both retinas still in place, eye problem possibly caused by spike in blood pressure or something similar, advises I try to cut back on the stress. BWAHAHAHAHA. (She laughed too.)

As usual when post-eye dilation by belladonna, attempts to use vision produce result as if eyes have been smeared, cinematographer-style, with Vaseline. Dictation to computer works fine but is frustrating when you can’t see if it’s correctly typed what you said. Work temporarily impossible in these circumstances.

Therefore have decided to spend the day alternately squinting at smartphone held up right in front of my nose and retweeting/reblogging things, and lying around channeling Sherlock – drinking tea, “watching” crap telly and shouting abuse at the usual idiocy. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday, all told.