Paul Buck on Performance — the movie

Old friend & collaborator Paul Buck was interviewed by 3.a.m. magazine on his new book on the film Performance. Opening paras below; read the whole piece here.

performance redux

Paul Buck interviewed by Richard Marshall.

3:AM: You approach the film from a series of angles – the art scene, the London drug scene, the gangster scene, the film scene and so on. This gives the reader a very intense and close up way in to the film. Was that your intention, can you say something about your approach?

Paul Buck: Performance is an extraordinary film in that it didn’t fit into the known patterns of filmmaking, whether mainstream or art-house or underground or whatever term you want to use. It didn’t fit categories in that respect. Or even genres. Is it a crime film? It’s often pushed into that field. But it isn’t. It blends and jags or Jaggers its way into all manner of fields. Thus the idea that one can write about it in a conventional manner seems a bit misguided. That approach is destined to fail on some levels. I thought the best way would be to unravel the film by taking the main protagonists, in front and behind the camera, and try to explore each and see how they fitted together as a team, or bunch of travellers. Because it seems to me that the film is more the result of a composite of people and trends and the zeitgeist that made that film, and made that film what it was and what it was to become. In that respect that approach also moves away from the old chestnut of was it Cammell’s film, or Roeg’s film. I didn’t want to give too much attention to that dispute, though I acknowledge it. I wanted to try to piece together the kernels, the essentials, essences and interests of the contributors and see where they meshed together, whether in the morning, afternoon, evening or night, how they came to make this enormous psychodrama. Though I didn’t pursue Maya Deren’s film in the book, that first ‘poetic psychodrama’, that I just alluded to, perhaps I could have made some further interesting inroads there too.

The other thing I wanted to do was pursue some parallels with the film. For example, to plant information out of sequence in the reader’s mind, sometimes gradually with respect to an idea, so that when I required the reader to notice the point I could trigger their memory and they’d understand the point on more than one level. This is something the film does. Indeed this idea, and the way it is pursued by Roeg in his subsequent films, is something I’ve taken on board in my own writings over the years, it’s part of my modus operandi let’s say. Thus it had a point here, I was acknowledging one of my key influences. Of course I knew this approach might well go over the heads of some of the readers who might just want the book to tell the story of the film, as I did call it a biography, not specifically an analysis or overview of various interpretations. Effectively I thought the way to talk about the film was to treat it on biographical terms, as least theoretically, because labels are anathema to me and present themselves as ripe for breaking or reconstructing. I was also aware that there could possibly be a wide range of readers, given that Jagger features and the publisher is known for its music output, not that any pressure was exerted to bear that in mind, or to conform in any way.

[ctd. here]

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