May 25, 2024

Performance.

and the people who made it

Anita Pallenberg

Anita Pallenberg, rock’n’roll goddess and star of PERFORMANCE,
is essential to making this film the masterwork that it is.

“It gets so dark that it almost doesn’t feel like you can come back from how dark it was, and it’s incredible that she did.”
– Svetlana Zill, Director, Catching Fire: the Story of Anita Pallenberg.

Catching Fire: The Story of Anita Pallenberg is a documentary, released May 2024, directed by Svetlana Zill and Alexis Bloom. The film chronicles the extraordinary life of the woman whose devil-may-care attitude, intelligence and style taught the Rolling Stones how to be, well… the Rolling Stones. Initially the paramour of founding member Brian Jones, Anita Pallenberg became the long-time girlfriend of Keith Richards, and her charisma and influence on Rock’n’Roll and the Stones is legendary.

I was thirteen years old when I first saw PERFORMANCE starring Pallenberg, and there I first laid eyes on her. Anita: rock goddess, vixen witch, pied piper of decadence and lust who enchanted me, and – along with her jumble of Rolling Stones rockers, hangers on, and hedonists of all types – I followed her lead into a life best expressed by the poet William Blake, who wrote, “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.”

Marlon, Keith Richards’ and Anita Pallenberg’s son, brought the idea for Catching Fire: The Story of Anita Pallenberg to Directors Alexis Bloom and Svetlana Zill. He told them, “Someone should make a film about my mum.”

The filmmakers read Anita’s diary, and through Marlon they had access to materials that would have otherwise been impossible to get. “We had all of that unseen home movie, and the family album, and you know you’re going to start there,” Bloom explained.

James Fox Anita Pallenberg and Mick Jagger’s liaisons on film in PERFORMANCE taught young me about the fluidity of gender and the ability of us to indulge in our true desires. Delightfully, Fox and Pallenberg found themselves in bed together once again, in an what was an odd replay of their PERFORMANCE liaison in the 2007 comedy Mr Lonely. Of that reunion, Zill recounted:

“They [Anita and James] were friends at the end. I don’t think he had a very good experience making [PERFORMANCE], but making “Mister Lonely” they really enjoyed each other’s company…” Alexis added, “…like two old friends. It was nice for them. She wrote a little bit about it in her diary – about being in Scotland and going off for breakfast with James, and I think it’s a level of familiarity there. And obviously being in bed with him, and being like, ‘Wow, you’ve got some sag on you, sister!’ and she’s like, ‘Talk about sag, let’s look at your marbles!’ They were fine with it! They were pretty great.”

Pallenberg’s decadent life had a happy ending. Without spilling the beans about the depth to which her life descended – you’ll have to see the film for that – it’s heartening to know that after such adventures you can emerge, I won’t say unscathed, but perhaps healed.

Pallenberg spent her later years gardening, living in “a really nice, comfortable, very stylish apartment in Chelsea [London] by the river,” where, according to the Bloom, “She was a wicked great gardener. She was into the freedom of being outside.” You were outside the norm in every way, Anita – and we’re grateful for it.

Catching Fire: The Story of Anita Pallenberg  is available starting via Video-On-Demand and will be on streaming platforms. For more links, visit Magnolia Films.

  • Review by Camilla S.

Anita Pallenberg talks about her experience of making PERFORMANCE: