THE ARCHIVIST Volume XIV: Jagger Struts In FREEJACK [1992] and PERFORMANCE [1970]

Welcome to the Archive. Following the infamous “Format Wars” (R.I.P. VHS), a multitude of films found themselves in danger of being forgotten forever due to their admittedly niche appeal. Thankfully, Warner Bros. established the Archive Collection, a Disc On Demand and Streaming service devoted to some of the more idiosyncratic pieces of cinema ever made. Being big fans of the label, we here at Cinapse thought it prudent to establish a column devoted to these unusual gems. Thus “The Archivist” was born — a biweekly look at some of the best, boldest and most batshit motion pictures the Shield has to offer. Some of these will be recent additions to the collection, while others will be titles that have been available for awhile. With over 1,500 pictures procurable on Warner Archive (and more being added every month), there’s no possible way we’ll get to all of them. But trust me when we say we’re sure going to try.

Hey all you mad wild babies! Welcome back to The Archivist. I continue to learn my Roman Numerals, and you continue to learn about the endless Warner Brothers back-catalogue of cinematic wonders! This week’s installment finds the gyrating wonder, Mick Jagger, as you might have never seen him before! With Die Antwoord’s actorial debut apparently coming up short in Chappie, I thought it appropriate to check out another musician stretching a pair of thespian wings. Jagger exercised his respectable acting chops in a handful of diverse films, and The W.B. Archives offers two very cool movies from his sparse film career. I can’t tell you how excited I am to tell you about one of them (although, they are both pretty great).

In Freejack, Emilio Estevez (looking so baby-faced, I would sooner believe him as the Mighty Ducks’ team captain, than head coach) plays a promising F1 racer who is sucked out of his own timeline and into the future (2009…Ha! Stupid movie! That’s already the past, losers!), where the super rich live inside a giant fence and can store their minds in a giant computer just long enough to be placed in some poor schmuck’s body from the past before they truly die. It’s based on a Robert Sheckley novel called Immortality INC., and that source material was apparently butchered in favor of several car chases and other shenanigans. It’s admittedly a poor film, but it shouldn’t be forgotten. I can understand its obscurity considering it came out in 1992, in the wake of icons like Basic Instinct, A Few Good Men, and Batman Returns, but it has an interesting place in the early ’90s Cyber Punk fascination. It also earns points for being a time travel movie whose premise allows for the protagonist to tell supporting characters who he is without the tedious rigors of convincing everyone he is not insane. People understand his highly dangerous situation (in what has become a way of life for them) as soon as he explains, and their reactions are always thrilling.

Mick Jagger doesn’t capture a ton of screen time in this one. He plays a mercenary who, even after being fired, insists on capturing Estevez’s character. His character is a lot of fun, and Jagger seems to be treating his character with no more care than the director did with the rest of the production. He phones it in with just enough charm to strike a smile or two. It’s just fun to see him do his thing, as an appealing character, especially in a squeaky pair of leather pants.

Speaking of which, the movie is kinda goofy. Estevez doesn’t quite sell the one-liners they fed him with the same bravado of the muscle-bound action stars of the day, and considering the script’s shallowness, the action isn’t quite exciting enough to…excite. It does offer some fun production design, and if you are a science fiction diehard, its well-worth your time, in spite of itself.

God…where the hell to start with tonight’s B picture (which is really the A picture)…

Performance chaotically intertwines the lives of Chas (James Fox), a ferocious London mafia enforcer, and Turner (Mick Jagger), a reclusive, disenchanted rock star. Chas is looking for an escape from his soured mafia ties, and Turner is looking to reconnect with his “demon” in order to recharge his songwriting energies. After Jagger’s character makes his mid-film entrance, they play a lot of dress-up, do a lot of bathing, and have a lot of sex (Turner had been in the middle of a ménage à trois). The dream can’t last forever, and after the two engage in a lengthy tug of war between their identities…something happens.

The movie opens with a bombastic torrent of exposition. The editing featured in the first 20 minutes is so overwhelming, I was almost too exhausted to continue. I’m not trying to scare you away from this experience in telling you that. I am trying to prepare you for a movie I think everyone needs to see. It may be challenging, but it is every bit as rewarding as long as you are willing to give yourself over to a movie that is just as much art as it is pure entertainment. It is a true work of cinema; one that tells you even more in its cinematography and editing than it does with its dialogue, and still manages to leave room for enough style to do nothing but exhilarate. Every moment of the movie’s time is filled with something provocative and engaging.

I had to routinely remind myself I was watching something from The Warner Archives, and not a lost classic picked up by one of our boutique labels. No offense to the other films I’ve covered for this column, but it seems like the majority of the titles under the Archive Collection label have been a few frames short of quality, rather than a few frames short of genius. I’ve had a lot of fun digging into their under appreciated works, but I have never been so thrilled by a movie in the catalogue thus far.

I won’t accept anyone telling me I only loved this movie for it being full of boobs and violence, either. Sure, Anita Pallenberg’s scantily-clad presence as a kind of antagonistic bohemian spiritual sex guru to James Fox’s character might be appealing, but it’s the dense feverishness of the film’s art that will stick with me forever. Besides, you need her in a movie constantly challenging gender and sexual identity with Jagger (and another character…who is hard to explain) being such an androgynous force of nature. This movie is the most complicated look at the “sex, drugs, and rock and roll generation,” and it blows Easy Rider right out of the water, from both a filmmaking standpoint and as an artistic representation of that time and place.

It also invented the music video. It features a music sequence, complete with a fantastic original song by Mick Jagger, yet had it come out in the ’90s, critics would have pooped on the entire movie’s frenetic style for its use of “the MTV edit.”

I need to stop…just see the damn thing. Jagger’s performance really shines…every performance does, and this Blu-ray release offers a few cool special features too, a rarity among Archive products.

So save yourself from being possessed by a dying rich guy, and have a mushroom trip in the key of Mick Jagger.

It’s double-feature time!

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