Friday, April 27, 2007

Performance (1970) III

Warning: All of the below are spoilers, except the bits where I'm speculating. If you want to be shocked by the ending of the film, don't read any of it at all.

There are mirrors everywhere – they are the traps that have caught Turner and are keeping him in the house. Pherber takes Chas to bed and holds a mirror to her body so that he and we can see half a male body and half a reflected female body, likewise mingling their two faces, but he says he's 'normal'. He's 'all man'. She's perverted, he says. Turner is watching them, hidden from them. Eventually, she gives up, spending the night with Lucy.

Turner is having his own personality crisis. In a sequence that's often referred to as a "rock video" and is sometimes seen as a standalone, we see Turner acting out the part of a Chas-like gangster, which at this stage of his metamorphosis is still mixed bizarrely with his own identity, a rock star. He rules Chas' firm as the new boss, but he's singing a Stones' song, "Memo from Turner", one which has nothing to do with East End gangs. The gangsters, in a horrible parody of Turner's girls, get naked and groove to the beat. We've seen plenty of evidence that they are homosexual, but Turner's imagination doesn't take us even as far as the linear narrative in that direction. The mimesis is incomplete. But at the end, he's strong enough to smash a mirror with his gun.

Chas has missed his connection with the fake document man, and he calls his nephew for help. Turner stands beside him feeding coins into the phone and giving him the delivery address for the passport. Of course, as the camera angle widens, we see his boss is in his nephew's house, having muscled in with his hard men. They're having a cuppa, nodding politely, taking down the address.

Chas sleeps with Lucy, the one he calls 'underdeveloped'. As they wake up, Lucy's form beside him is replaced for a moment with Turner's. Later, as they talk, Lucy asks for something. He goes to get it, still wearing the skewed and uncombed wig, and runs into several armed men on the ground floor landing. He knows the score – the firm have decided to 'put him down like a poor dog what doesn't mean to harm you but has become a danger'. He buys some time and goes upstairs to tell Satan he believes it's time to go. But Turner isn't finished with him. He's trapped here in the house, bereft of his demon, ready to take the next step. His only way out is with someone who still has the capacity to move between worlds. "Take me with you," he says.

After a slight hesitation, Chas does so, shooting Turner directly through the crown of his head. We see the bullet penetrate to his very core; what's at the core is shown on screen. It's not what you might think. Chas goes down to meet his boss and is driven away in the white Rolls-Royce. We see them leave, the camera peering through the car window. It's Turner's face we see in the car, looking mildly astonished at the bright light of the outside world.

Back to part II

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