Donald Seton Cammell, painter, screenwriter, and director; born January 17, 1934, died April 24, 1996

THE essence of the Swinging Sixties was probably caught best in Donald Cammell's first film as director, Performance, which starred Mick Jagger, James Fox, and forgotten swingers of the day like Anita Pallenberg and Michelle Breton.

Written by Cammell, it was co-directed with Nicholas Roeg who photographed it. Made in 1970, the film was only released a year later after being substantially cut by its worried distributor.

Fox, who had scored a huge success as the weak English public schoolboy in The Servant two years before, changed character to play a sadistic East End thug who breaks into the world of a reclusive rock star, Jagger, and wreaks havoc.

It was something of a sensation. The critic, John Simon, wrote: ``You don't have to be a drug addict, pederast, sadomasochist, or nitwit to enjoy it, but being one or more of these things would help.''

It is an amazingly perverse film in which the two men swop personalities.

Fox found the role extremely disturbing and it appears to have contributed to his disappearance into the ranks of an evangelical sect for nearly a decade.

It was, however, to be Cammell's finest hour in the cinema. His latter films were not very successful, and his most recent, The Wild Side, starring Christopher Walken and Joan Chen, made in 1995, has yet to be seen.

Donald Cammell was born in the Outlook Tower by Edinburgh Castle, the elder son of the writer and poet Charles Richard Cammell and Iona Macdonald.

A child prodigy, he began to paint at the age of three. He was educated at Westminster School and studied at the Byam Shaw Art School and the Royal Academy School of Art.

He also studied painting in Florence under Anigoni and in the early 1950s had a successful career as a portrait painter with a studio in Flood Street, Chelsea. His portrait of Sheridan, Marquis of Dufferin and Ava, as a page boy at the Coronation of the Queen was society portrait of the year.

In 1961 he moved to Paris, where he lived for some time. He also started writing screenplays, the first of which, Duffy, a heist drama starring Fox and James Coburn, was produced in 1968.

He was the centre of a Chelsea set at the time when the area was at the heart of cultural life.

After the release of Performance Cammell moved to Los Angeles where he spent the next seven years trying to get The Demon Seed made. A science fiction horror story about a computer which impregnated its creator's wife, played by Julie Christie, it came out in 1977 at the same time as Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind and duly paid the price.

Like all his work it deals with the complex relationship between human sexuality and identity and how people exploit power over others. Ten years and several aborted projects later he got to direct another film, White of the Eye, set in the Arizona desert, about a woman living with a serial killer.

He was married twice, first to the Greek actress Maria Andipa, by whom he had a son, and then to the writer, China Kong, with whom he collaborated on his latter, mostly unmade, screenplays. He is survived by his son and his second wife.