This past weekend included a listen to Joy Division’s Substance (1988) and continued reading of bassist Peter Hook’s Joy Division memoir Unknown Pleasures. I first heard Joy Division in 1987 when I went out record shopping with my friend Natalie. She and I had a lot of overlapping tastes, but she was a proper goth and I was just into the music. I knew a lot of Joy Division-adjacent stuff, but hadn’t heard anything by them. She recommended their second album, Closer. I was 20, living in San Francisco, and (as I would for several years) spent a lot of my time not processing my father’s death the previous year. I was hard to reach and generally hard to communicate with. The thing Joy_Division_Closerabout Closer, and JD in general for me at the time – I knew a little of the history – I’d even seen New Order (the band formed out of the remains of Joy Division) perform. That would have been in 1985 at the Santa Monica Civic – hadn’t heard any of their music prior and the show was boring – listening to live recordings from that period now – yeah, they were a dull live act). I recall playing this album a lot that year, and feeling all kinds of despair associated with it, primarily because I knew of the untimely death of lead singer Ian Curtis. One of my flatmates at the time told me it was familiar and asked if he would have heard something else by the band. It’s possible, I probably told him, but this tastes and mine were quite different. Yeah, I listened intently to Closer, but I didn’t know (yet) their biggest hit, Love Will Tear Us Apart, which was a little weird. But this was before someone could send you an email saying ‘you’ll like this song’ and before you even read the next sentence, you could be listening to the song.

So, yeah, Lawrence probably had heard Joy Division before me, though hipster that I was, I was loath to admit it.

Anyway, Closer threw me into a funk that was hard to escape but I was compelled to listen to it more and more. I bought Substance the following year and found that I especially liked the post-punk stuff (Atmosphere, Love, Dead Souls, These Days), but really didn’t know what to make of the earlier, punkier tracks. Later I’d buy the Short Circuit compilation (which includes At a Later Date recorded when they were still a punk band called Warsaw) on the same day I purchased Iggy and the Stooges’ Metallic KO. The following week, a friend told me the apocryphal tale of Ian Curtis committing suicide on the eve of Joy Division’s first American tour because he believed they’d never make a record as good as Metallic KO. A cursory search indicates that Curtis played Iggy Pop’s The Idiot and watched a Herzog film before taking his own life at the age of 23. His epilepsy wasn’t a secret to those nearest him, though in the late 70s, people didn’t know so well how to be supportive of an epileptic friend.

Hook notes that everything Joy Division recorded was classic – something he credits to band chemistry, youth, and Curtis’ lyrical brilliance. With this in mind, I can probably say that everything JD recorded , especially after An Ideal For Living, supersedes everything on Metallic KO (much as that document of two late shows from the original incarnation of the Stooges, including their last show in 1974, is brilliant in its own twisted way). Whether JD’s work supersedes The Idiot, well that’s a bit subjective.

Later I would have a huge poster of the cover of Closer on my wall, next to a huge poster of the cover of Aladdin Sane. As usual, there’s no real conclusion to this story. Even the fact that I’m reading Hook’s memoir right now is a little random. I purchased it for the kindle months ago when it was probably on offer for 99p, about what it cost to see Joy Division open for the Buzzcocks in 1979. It simply came up when I was scrolling through to find what next to read.

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Considering ‘Cleanness’, translated by Marie Borroff, amongst other things. Borroff has published translations of all of the works found in the manuscript containing ‘Gawain and the Green Knight.’ In this essay, I reference The Gawain Poet Complete Works, published by W.W. Norton & Company, 2011.

In her introduction to the collected translations, Dr. Borroff presents her credentials as deriving from her study of philology and her work as a poet. Her introductionborroffs and notes also evince a strong Christian background. Born in 1923, PhD 1956 Yale, English professor (first such at Yale). Does the fact that she was in her 70s when she undertook ‘Cleanness’ have bearing? Possibly.

Her translation of ‘Cleanness’ was first published in 2001 which, by my reckoning, is awfully late for such a work to be introduced and explicated with references to sodomy and sins of the flesh being the those things most abhorrent to G-di. The poet, she tells us, was ‘devout, deeply thoughtful, and offers a window on one version of medieval Christianity.’ii The issue isn’t that she’s explaining the poet’s position as such, but that she does so without much comment. To be fair, the first sentence of the poem’s introduction indicates that of the five available works by the poet, ‘Cleanness’ ‘is the least accessible to the modern reader.’ This might be her concession to the gap between medieval doctrinal Christian morality and modern acceptance of multiple sexualities.
After retelling the parable of the wedding feast from the Gospel of Matthew, the poet tells us ‘Uncleanness is the one sin that rouses G-d to merciless anger. Lines 193-204 earn no footnote, but set the stage for the main sections of the poem. Indeed, one could, as Borroff suggests in her introduction to the poem, read these lines as the poem’s thesis:

But I have listened long and hard to many learned clerks,
And in writings well reasoned read it myself,
That the peerless Prince who in paradise rules
Is displeased at every point appertaining to sin.
But I have never seen it set down in a book
That He punished so impatiently the people He had made,
No avenged Him so violently on vice or on sin,
Nor so hastily did harm in the heat of His anger,
Nor so severely and swiftly sought to destroy
As for filth of the flesh that fools have practiced.

The poet quickly addresses The Fall of the Angels, The Fall of Man, and The Corruption of Adam’s Progeny followed by a detailed retelling of the story of the Flood. Before moving on to a lengthy treatment of the destruction of Sodom, the poet provides another Warning Against Uncleanness. The warning concludes:

But when the folk fall into foul deeds of defiling lust
He loathes so that lewdness, He lashes out at once,
Cannot bear to hold back, but abruptly strikes,
And that was openly proven by a punishment once.

That last line obviously refers to the Flood. The poet does a very clear job of retelling the story of Lot, his daughters, and G-d’s angels at the gates of Sodom. He isiii quite clear that the desire of the men of Sodom for the angels is unacceptable in the eyes of G-d, but presents Lot’s offer of his virgin daughters without any judgment. Lot tells the men of Sodom, when they demand the angels a second time:

My abode here is blessed by two beauteous daughters;
They live with me alone – no lover has had them;
None seemlier dwell in Sodom, though I say so myself.
They are ripe and ruddy fleshed; they are ready for men;
To embrace such bonny maids will bring you more pleasure.
I bestow them with my blessing, that are buxom and blithe,
And lie with them as you like, and let my guests be.

The men of Sodom reply that Lot is a newcomer, though in Sodom he has grown rich. Regarding Lot’s offer, Borroff makes no comment. Her omission suggests that the Sodomites’ rejection of the female is sufficient demonstration of how they have earned G-d’s wrath.

Without evidence, she also suggests that the punishment suffered by Lot’s wife has something to do with her salting the meal served to their guests. In a footnote (p.91), she writes, ‘According to the version of the story that most closely resembles the poet’s, the angels visited Lot during Passover, and that is why Lot insisted that they be served unleavened bread, containing neither yeast nor salt…It seems clear from the poet’s treatment of the story that he had read one or more of the Jewish commentaries on Genesis, presumably in Latin translation.’

Her assertion that Lot was entertaining the angels during Passover is as patently ridiculous as the presence of whole loaves of bread on the table of the Last Supper, a not uncommon sight in medieval/renaissance depictions. The story of Lot predates the Exodus by multiple generations. (Quickly: Lot is Abraham’s nephew. Abraham is the grandfather of Jacob who brought his entire household into Egypt at the end of the book of Genesis. At the beginning of the second book of the bible, Exodus, we learn that the generation of Jacob’s offspring (14 children) were all deceased, but their descendants had multiplied such that pharaoh was alarmed. This is the beginning of the story that culminates in the Jews’ escape from Egypt. It is this story that is told at Passover each year. The event that the Passover holiday commemorates hadn’t occurred at the time of the destruction of Sodom.)

But, listen. I’m an atheist bisexual and a non-practicing Jew. My passing interest in Christian doctrine derives from my study of English literature and a desire for accurate allusions in my own writing. I might be the wrong person to criticize Borroff’s ignorance or omissions with regard to her presentation of the work in question. I came of age in the 1980s and studied literature (including her go-to translation of ‘Gawain’) at San Francisco State at the height of the AIDS crisis, so I have a certain bias.

My own sense of morality enables me (and entrusts me) to side with victims of sexual assault, and at the very least look askance at those who commit assault or stand by when assault (or invitation to assault) occurs. Angel of the Lord or no. Consensual sex, regardless of parts, is up to those participating. I come at this poetry from the firm belief that we must be clear and open about who we are in order to give strength to those who are increasingly persecuted. These are treacherous bloody times in which to be dishonest and not open to the needs of those without choice. If being public about who I am comes by way of literary examination, so be it.

The question is perhaps, ‘Does the poetic translator bear a responsibility to question such a stark moral dichotomy?’ Does the editor bear some responsibility in this regard. I say yes to both, but only partly because the poems aren’t necessarily presented as doctrinal texts. In many ways they reflect doctrine, certainly. Borroff says that the poet’s suggestion that G-d taught sexual pleasure to mankind is outside Christian doctrine because it ‘omits…the intention on the part of both man and woman to conceive a child’ (p.41):

When two were tied together with true minds and hearts,
Between a man and his mate would mount such delight
That the pure joys of Paradise could scarce prove better

The blaze of love between them so bright and so fierce
That all the mishaps on earth could not hold back its heat.

I find ‘Cleanness’ to be problematic not only for its treatment of sexuality but for the implicit comparison of men to the holy vessels of the Temple. It’s no secret that women are responsible, biblically speaking, for the ills of the world (Do I need to rehash Eve giving the apple to Adam?), but the poet takes this assertion to the next level in his retelling of the story of Balthazar.

After an interlude instructing how to emulate Christ’s purity, nearly half the poem is spent retelling the story of the Babylonian exile. It’s a leap from the mythology of the first book of the bible to an event that is documented both in the bible and elsewhere, with a firm date in the 6th century BCE. We learn first how the last king of Jerusalem and Judea ‘used abomination, bowing to idols / And prized little the laws he should loyally have kept.’ G-d therefore uses Babylonian king Nabugodonosor (Nebuchadnezzar) to destroy Jerusalem, raze the temple, and enslave the Jews. Nabugodonosor is mostly loyal to G-d, and he never uses the treasures taken from the Temple of Solomon. When his son Balthazar inherits the throne, he orders the holy vessels of the temple be brought out during a drunken feast. In retaliation for this sin, G-d invites the Persians to sack Babylon and kill Balthazar, much as He had invited Nebuchadnezzar to sack Jerusalem and kill or enslave its inhabitants.

The poet implicitly equates Balthazar’s sin with that of the Sodomites and of Noah’s contemporaries; the poet equates the desecration of men through sins of the flesh with that of those cups from the temple. Men are the holy vessels and women are as nothing, even to the point of being raped by those same men. Is it any wonder women are repressed in the Church, and in orthodox Judaism for that matter?

Leaping forward a couple of centuries, Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon ‘Sinners in the Hands of an Angry G-d’ (1741) exemplifies the same kind of disdain of those considered sinners as the poet of ‘Cleanness’, though Edwards spreads the damnation around. He also ascribes to G-d a kind of infinite wrath that the poet only hints at. It’s a guess that most faithful in these times would find that kind of wrath unlikely.

“And it shall come to pass, that…all flesh come to worship before me, saith the L-rd. And they shall go forth and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched, and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.” (Isaiah 66:24) It is everlasting wrath. It would be dreadful to suffer this fierceness and wrath of Almighty G-d one moment; but you must suffer it to all eternity. There will be no end to this exquisite horrible misery. When you look forward, you shall see a long for ever, a boundless duration before you, which will swallow up your thoughts, and amaze your soul; and you will absolutely despair of ever having any deliverance, any end, any mitigation, any rest at all. You will know certainly that you must wear out long ages, millions of millions of ages, in wrestling and conflicting with this almighty merciless vengeance; and then when you have so done, when so many ages have actually been spent by you in this manner, you will know that all is but a point to what remains.iv

While the excesses described have been mirrored elsewhere (A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, for example), it is reflected more obviously (in my reading) in works of cosmic horror and performed by creatures from outside the realm of Christian mythology. The eternal torments meted out by G-d to the unbaptised and unsaved in Edwards’ sermon are similar to those inflicted on the narrator of I Have No Mouth and I Must Screamv, forced to perform unspeakable acts by an omnipotent intelligence.

Assuming that the poems of the manuscript are all by the same poet, he presents a vision of heaven in ‘Pearl’ that offers biblical basis for the afterworld as earned by what the Puritans would later call The Elect.

‘Pearl’ sets forth what is essentially an ecstatic dream vision that assumes the dreamer and the reader will achieve, or can achieve, this heaven by staying on the path of righteousness. Borroff is clear and consistent in providing the biblical sources for the poem, specifying the translations used and obviously works from the assumption that the poet wasn’t being somehow satirical. From my perspective, being at this late date more familiar with the Old Testament than the New, I find the poet’s take on G-d’s perspective, even as Jesus was supposed to have been the answer to and resolution of Mosaic law, a little hard to take.

What we come away with is that while G-d can be forgiving and recognise the human struggle for grace, there are places where the L-rd’s ways are not our own, but distinctly reflect human prejudices. And, yes, we should be over that by now, except that they’re set forth in the holy books.

Occasionally I read, and utter, the opinion that those who preach against homosexuality should also heed the other dictates of the Old Testament, especially those set out in the book of Leviticus. Have you mixed cotton and linen in the same fabric, eaten shellfish (or cheeseburgers), had sex outside of marriage? These all earn punishments similar to those for homosexuality. The argument is that while Jesus is the way and the light and is the new embodiment of the law set down in the Old Testament, not all of the old sins hold equal weight. There seems to be a distinction drawn between what is immoral and what is simply illegal.

As I’m considering how to conclude this, I’ve come across an opinion in the NY Timesvi that suggests the prohibition against homosexuality in Leviticus was originally a prohibition against homosexual incest, but later editors fudged it. Biblical scholar Idan Dershowitz argues that the glosses on a couple of sentences seem to contradict or subvert what might have been the more limited earlier prohibition. While it is nice to see this matter considered, what preachers old and new (including the poet of ‘Cleanness’) are elucidating is not the specific legal prohibition, but the evidence in the earlier stories that specifies what G-d Himself finds odious.

The problem is that all of our understanding of human biology; of the nature of love, lust, and desire; and of the importance of living in honesty with oneself goes head on with two thousand years of anti-gay interpretation of scripture. The power of that interpretation undermines any other way of looking at scripture and practicing most established versions of Christianity.

i I follow here the Jewish tradition of not spelling out the complete name of G-d or any of its synonyms.

ii I’m unable to find the reference – I’m pretty sure it was in the general introduction to the volume.

iii I operate from an unfounded assumption that the poet is male.

Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye Words and Music – 29 May 2018 de Duif, Amsterdam
The monsoon hit yesterday as I was on my way to this church in the middle of Amsterdam. The weather had been hot and humid and then the rain came down. My friend Carrie was coming up from Utrecht and we didn’t have time to meet for supper, and by the time she arrived, drenched, most everyone had filed in for the 8:30 show. As we leaned on a wall near the back of the venue, someone told the man next to us that there were seats upstairs. In front of the organ. With a clear line of sight to the stage. Perfect.
smith-kaye-20180529I’d never seen Smith perform, but I’ve been listening for ages. In high school, friends from New York put Piss Factory and her version of Hey Joe (with the Patty Hearst intro) on a mix tape for me. And of course I’d heard Because The Night because it was all over the radio. Later I’d listen to those first four Arista albums but not really understand a lot of them. Gloria I got. The title track of Horses was overwhelming. In college picked up Radio Ethiopia because Dramarama had covered Pumping My Heart, but aside from that song and Pissing In A River, again, it was overwhelming. When Dream of Life with its single People Have The Power came out, I was working in a record store in San Francisco and the manager was crazy excited that she had a new record after eight years off the musical radar. I wasn’t impressed with it and went back to listening to Wave and Easter which had the punk sensibility that affected me most in her work.
Anyway, when tickets went on sale for this gig, I was keen to get them because sometime recently (possibly after hearing about the Horses tour a few years ago) I decided that I didn’t want to miss seeing her perform. (At 71, she’s still going very strong, but as I wasn’t the first to note a couple of years ago, 69 [David Bowie amongst others] is the new 27 [Brian Jones, Hendrix, Joplin, Winehouse and a whole slew of others].)
She and guitarist Lenny Kaye walked on stage and she opened by saying, ‘Behind those clouds is a beautiful full moon.’ She said that she’d wanted to read this old piece of hers, but didn’t have a copy, but found it on the internet. In the course of the show, she read two excerpts from a new volume called New Jerusalem which offers some poetic response, among other things, to the Trump presidency.
Early on, Smith and Kaye performed a lovely rendition of Dylan’s Boots of Spanish Leather. I’m not sure if she gets sufficient credit for her interpretations of other people’s songs. Early in her recording career, her version of Van Morrison’s Gloria was hailed, but that was for the intensity of her re-interpretation. I want to say recently, but it was probably eleven or twelve years ago, she released a full album of other people’s songs that she managed to make her own with some success. After the Dylan song, Kaye stepped up and dug his heels into Waylon Jennings’ Love of the Common People which felt unlikely but absolutely in place at the same time. I was certainly game for whatever they chose to bring on. Either they had a really good rapport with the audience or the room was as game as I was for the experience.
The poems she read included Pythagorean Traveler and another segment of New Jerusalem called Prophecy’s Lullaby. Pythagorean Traveler was preceded by the song My Blakean Year (which makes thematic sense – as many of the poems she shared make use of William Blake’s imagery and vocabulary). At one point she asked if anyone had any questions. The only one to step up could only ask in French. Neither Smith nor anyone near the asker could speak French to which she added, ‘We have in common that none of us can read Rimbaud in the original.’ The question was lost but it was an amusing moment.
In my favourite of the spoken word moments, Smith asked the audience if anyone had brought a copy of Just Kids, her memoir of living poor in New York with Robert Mapplethorpe at the turn of the 70s. Several hands went up as she explained that it would be Allen Ginsberg’s birthday next week and she wanted to read an excerpt. Copy in hand, she flipped through it trying to find the page, which a reader of that copy had handily bookmarked. It’s a very sweet tale that you can find below. (She read from ‘Horn and Hardart, the queen of automats’ on the left page through the bottom of the right.) In her reading, you could feel the love she felt for Ginsberg beyond the words.
As for the musical numbers, they performed (among others) ripping versions of Dancing Barefoot, Pissing in a River, Because the Night, and People Have The Power.
When they were about a verse into the last song, someone at the front of the audience put something on the stage, which might have been flowers, and she had to stop, explaining that the stage had to be kept clear. It was a really odd moment, but she backed up and she and Kaye played a really touching rendition of Presley’s I Can’t Help Falling In Love (which was the proper encore the following night). I’ve always found this particular track to be really kitschy, but I was totally sucked in. The audience sang along and it felt like we were all around the same campfire for a few minutes. In an evening full of touching moments, that one was, inexplicably, as well. And then they topped it all off with a full-throttle go at People Have The Power.
Set list:
Little Moon (poem)
Wing
New Jerusalem excerpt (poem)
Ghost Dance (s)
Boots of Spanish Leather (Dylan’s birthday a couple days ago)
My Blakean Year
Lenny Kaye solo – Love of the common people
Pythagorean traveler (poem)
Dancing barefoot
Meeting Allen Ginsberg from Just Kids
Southern Cross
Prophecy’s Lullaby (poem)
Pissing in a river
Because the night
People have the power (cut off)
I can’t help falling in love with you
People have the power
smith-ginsberg-just-kids

In this review, I look at the 40th Anniversary editions of two King Crimson live albums. I’ve been a fan of the USA album since before I knew where it stood in the KC canon. Earthbound, however, was never high on my listening list. Having launched into this adventure of rambling through the King Crimson discography, however, I was inclined to give it another go, especially as the notoriously lo-fi recordings are accompanied by an (expectedly cleaner) radio session, Live at Summit Studios, in this release. More on Summit later.

My favourite thing about Earthbound, recorded on the Islands tour in early 1972, is Boz Burrell’s voice. Being a fan of the classic mid-70s lineup that produced USA, Red, Starless and Bible Black, and Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, the limitations of Wetton’s voice always grated on me. With this in mind, however, these recordings also reveal in stark relief why leader Robert Fripp gave the Islands lineup the boot. Fripp himself had already moved on before they went on the road to meet contractual obligations. The other three members, Mel Collins on flutes and saxophones, Burrell on bass/vocals, and Ian Wallace on drums, are very loose in their playing and seem to want to be more of a boogie band than a progressive rock outfit. The original release consisted of 21st Century Schizoid Man, two improvs, a particularly sloppy Sailor’s Tale, and an extended jam on Groon, the instrumental b-side of the very jazzy Cat Food from 1970. The initial release of Groon was only about four minutes (four different takes can be found on the 40th Anniversary Edition of In the Wake of Poseidon), but on this tour, it was regularly extended past fifteen.

The CD portion of this release extends the initial album with Pictures of a City, Formentera Lady, and Cirkus. The DVD portion extends it further with Ladies of the Road, The Letters, and full versions of The Sailor’s Tale and Groon.

kc-eb-usa-back-smThe opening Schizoid man pushes the needle to the red in terms of both saturation and energy. While the structure remains the same, the improvisations in the middle exceed what is expected. Mel Collins’ sax work is intense, and marred somewhat by drumming that seems to be, possibly, part of a different song. Fripp ropes everyone back in with some searing runs. Boz’s treated vocals are more menacing that we hear in later versions, which is somehow appropriate.

Peoria lets us in with some bass/horn/drum interplay, but if Fripp’s guitar is in there, it’s very low in the mix. Sailor’s Tale fades in and closes out side 1. It’s the only song on Earthbound’s original release that also appears on the album they were touring, Islands. It’s a bit sloppy – and perhaps it’s this tendency to sloppiness that frustrated Fripp, but on its own terms it works.

Read the rest of this entry »

I’d heard of Performance from a couple of different angles. I knew Jagger’s Memo From Turner came out of this movie, and I knew a couple of samples nicked by Big Audio Dynamite for the song E=MC2, which is itself an odd musical tribute to Roeg’s work.
The film is both a continuation of the gangster dramas that had been coming out since the 30s and an influence on movies that came later including In Brugges and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels.
The plot has a fairly straightlaced gangster, Chas, going to ground after he kills his boss’ new protégé without authorisation. There’s an interesting subtext going on that his boss and those higher up in the organisation are middle-aged queens while Chas is not only straightlaced, but decidedly straight. Through a turn of luck, Chas overhears of a room in Notting Hill Gate from a musician going on tour who has left his gear and some unpaid rent. Chas shows up at the address and pays off the debt in return for the room. Visiting Notting Hill in the late 60s is quite odd, because the lower-class neighbourhood of that era is full of million quid houses now. Those self same houses.
Mick Jagger plays the house’s owner, retired rock star Turner. In the course of Chas’ stay in the house with Turner and his two lovers, Pherber, played by Keith Richards’ girfriend at the time, Anita Pallenberg (RIP), and Lucy, he discovers a situation that is decidedly Bohemian and sexually open. In order to get into his head, Pherber and Turner dose Chas with mushrooms and from there the movie takes a distinctly psychedelic turn.
Another place I heard of this movie was in conversation with Coil’s Jhonn Balance. I was lucky enough to chat with him after Coil played in Prague in 2002. My friend Chris asked him what the source of the sample ‘We must go further back. Further back and faster’ was from. (The track Further Back and Faster is on the 1991 album Love’s Secret Domain.) Balance referenced this movie and talked about Roeg for a little bit before we moved on to talking about Derek Jarman movies. So this film has been at the back of my mind for over 15 years. Queerness and queer identity were very much at the heart of Coil’s musical identity and the queerness of those who have authority over Chas is not a lost plot point. Chas holds enough fascination for Turner that he feels the need to defend himself from what are fairly subliminal advances on Turner’s part.
performance-lobby-card The fascination for Balance in this movie possibly included what was essentially a music video inserted in the midst of Chas’s mushroom trip. When Jagger lip syncs Memo From Turner in the offices of the gangsters Chas reports to, it’s not clear who’s experiencing what, but it’s interesting that when the movie was made, the queerness of both the song and the action in this sequence is quite matter of fact. That Chas rejects unspoken advances, as well, is (I think) meant to be interpreted as a shortcoming on his part.
This was not without controversy at the time. The studio refused to release the movie for two years due to graphic sex and violence. My first thought on reading about that was that I’d love to know what the Memo from Warners actually pointed to as problematic. By more recent standards, a few killings and a little sex are considered PG-13 fare by the MPAA, but there are two graphic scenes of gangland violence that were probably more shocking then than they’d be considered now. And unfraught sexuality between two women was also quite shocking. Imagine my surprise to find the image accompanying this review. Initially it was either given the X rating or the studio simply assigned the film an X rating. (Note: All of the other MPAA ratings are trademarked. Only the X rating can be used without MPAA authorisation. I think the idea was that the MPAA didn’t actually want to assign ratings to porno. Porn studios could take the rating and the limited release associated with it. On the other hand, in the early days of the ratings system, movies like Midnight Cowboy and Bilitis which had non-pornographic inclinations could take the rating and the artistic freedom that came with it.)
Regular readers might take my opinion of Chas’ response to Turner’s interest as hypocritical. Didn’t I just recently write that the correct response to the possibility of homosexuality in an interaction should be ‘not a problem’? What’s the difference here? The storytellers of Ready Player One were positing that the homosexual angle was to be avoided where presented. In Performance, however, the storytellers suggest that Chas’ rejection of the possibility is part and parcel of Chas’ rejection of life as a whole.
The ending of the film confused me and the friends with whom I saw the movie. It wraps up rather quickly with the viewer being not quite sure who lives and who dies (despite the writers at Wikipedia seeming very certain of themselves). That said, the movie’s seedy opulence, spot on performances from all concerned, and excellent soundtrack earn this goody four stars.