Performance (1970) is a British psychological melodrama directed by Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg. A troubled and drawn-out production, it was filmed in 1968, but not released until 1970. Originally rated X, it was later changed to an R for sexual content, nudity, drug use and violence. It stars James Fox, Mick Jagger, Anita Pallenberg, Michele Breton, Ann Sidney, John Bindon, and Stanley Meadows.

A detailed account of the making of this film from an insider's perspective can be found in the book Up and Down with the Rolling Stones by Tony Sanchez (New York: William Morrow and Co., 1979).


Spoiler warning

Cockney mobster Chas (James Fox), is a sexual sadist and mysogynistic thug. He runs afoul of his crime boss who sends three of his men to eliminate him. Chas is beaten up and whipped with a belt but manages to kill his would-be assassins. Now on the run, he hides out in the basement apartment of a reclusive washed-up rock star named Turner (Mick Jagger, more or less playing himself) and his two hippie girlfriends (Anita Pallenberg, Michele Breton).

Life with Turner and his women quickly degenerates into a surreal, dream-like odyssey combining drugs, decadence and the exploration of sexual identity, including androgyny.

The spanking scenesEdit

In the beginning of the film we see glimpses of Chas engaged in rough sex with his girlfriend and slapping her around. Later, Chas is beaten up by hired thugs and severely whipped with a belt across his back and upper buttocks. During the beating, he has split-second flashbacks of himself roughly treating his girlfriend, visually linking together the themes of sex and violence in this film.

Two mobsters argue with the manager of an adult grindhouse theater. During this, the camera cuts away several times to a silent French stag film being shown to an audience of lecherous old men. This is a 1930s-40s pornographic short with bondage and whipping. The complete reel can be found on the Cult Epics DVD Vintage Erotica anno 1940. A shorter version can be watched online at the Internet Archive (see Links below).

Clips from the stag reel show a nude submissive woman wearing a leather bondage belt with attached wrist restraints being bent over a table. Her ankles are tied to the table legs. A man and a dominatrix type woman armed with martinet floggers whip her simultaneously. She receives a few strokes in this brief scene (in the full-length version she gets around 45 lashes in all).

The vintage clips continue the recurring theme of sexual domination and sadomasochism, contrasting the violent lives of ruthless career criminals with Turner's listless, decadent world of psychedelic drugs, casual sex, and self-exploration.

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