Donald Cammell, a little-known but brilliant filmmaker, achieved legendary cult status as the screenwriter and co-director (with Nicholas Roeg) of the film masterpiece “PERFORMANCE”, starring James Fox, Mick Jagger and Anita Pallenberg. While none of his other films ever equaled the same legendary status, each of them displayed the marks of a true visionary.
The son of poet and writer Charles Richard Cammell, he initially came to predominance as a remarkable portrait artist. He made a substantial living (and became a renowned character of the Swinging London Scene of the 1960’s) painting portraits of the top echelon of London Society.
It was around this time that he became bored with painting and found a new obsession: the cinema. After having several screenplays of his made into very mediocre films, he vowed only to direct his own work. This led him on a lifelong whirlwind of up’s and down’s. Not unlike the career of one of his idols, Orson Welles, he spent the remainder of his life battling studios and producers, who always managed to take his films away from him and re-cut his unique vision into Swiss-cheese pulp.
Besides ¨Performance¨, his other films include¨The Demon Seed¨ (starring Julie Christie), ¨White of the Eye¨ (featuring David Keith and Cathy Moriarty), and ¨The Wild Side¨ (with Christopher Walken and Anne Heche). He also directed the ¨Pride (In the Name of Love)” video for U2.
In 1996, fed-up and suicidal, he shot himself in the head (not unlike the main character of his sole masterpiece, “Performance”). The world would never see another film of his that showcased his unique cinematic gifts.
Before his death, he submitted to SIGHT & SOUND magazine a list of his favorite films:
DONALD CAMMELL’S FAVORITE FILMS:
“The Conformist” (1969 – Bernardo Bertolucci)
“Ivan The Terrible¨ (1942 – Sergei Eisenstein)
“Naked” (1993 – Mike Leigh)
“Dr. Strangelove” (1963 – Stanley Kubrick)
“Nouvelle Vague” (1990 – Jean-Luc Godard)
“Tokyo Decadance” (1991 – Ryu Murakami)
“Blade Runner” (1992 – Ridley Scott)
“Throne of Blood” (1952 – Akira Kurosawa)
“The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” (1972 – Luis Bunuel)