Amid the decaying elegance of cold-war Vienna, psychoanalyst Dr. Alex Linden (Art Garfunkel) becomes mired in an erotically charged affair with the elusive Milena Flaherty (Theresa Russell). When their all consuming passio... more »n takes a life-threatening turn, Inspector Netusil (Harvey Keitel) is assigned to piece together the sordid details. Acclaimed for its innovative editing, raw performances, and stirring musical score, featuring Tom Waits, the Who, and Billie Holiday, Nicolas Roeg?s Bad Timing is a masterful, deeply disturbing foray into the dark world of sexual obsession.« less
Roeg's last great film: a troubled picture about a troubled
Trevor Willsmer | London, England | 08/03/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Seen a quarter of a century on, 'Bad Timing' stands out as one of Nicolas Roeg's most satisfying and complex films and yet it can be one of his hardest to discuss. It's a film I feel a little guilty about writing so little about, but even on a second viewing it's still rather overwhelming. It's interesting how it manages to be so genuinely multi-layered, more like a novel than a film - the way it mixes voyeurism, spying and emotional, psychological and legal investigation (with Keitel's investigation of the suicide scene placing him firmly in scenes as an unseen voyeur through Terry Rawlings typically brilliant editing) is remarkable enough, but the film manages to do so much more besides. And the performances are incredibly brave - how many leading men can you think of who would effectively (and quite deliberately effeminately) play the woman's role during the lovers' initial meeting? Russell in particular shows an astonishing range in what should be an impossible part, making her inability to find decent roles these days even more disappointing.
True it falls apart in the last couple of reels when the performances don't quite ring true, but it's still the last great film Nic Roeg made before settling into prolific mediocrity. It's as a brilliantly edited post-mortem into a mutually destructive relationship rather than a police mystery that it really enthralls, even when it doesn't entirely work. Much more impressive than I remembered, it's not a feelgood movie - if anything it's the date movie from hell - but it is a remarkably ambitious and accomplished one.
So why is the film so little-known and perhaps even less-seen? Well, that seems to be down to some bad luck and bad timing of its own.
In the US it hit censorship problems and in Europe it had major problems with its distribution. It was one of Rank's last full slate of British productions, so should have been guaranteed a circuit release on the Odeon chain in the UK. Unfortunately, the head of Rank Theatres was so disgusted by the film (the Rank Organisation was originally started to make religious films and many of the old guard were still in place in 1980) that he refused to book it into a single one of their theatres - the only Rank film to be so 'honored' (although he wasn't much enamoured of Eagle's Wing either). The second biggest circuit was owned by Rank's biggest rival, EMI, who weren't interested in helping out their balance sheet, so it ended up on Lew Grade's very small Classic chain. Rank's distribution in Europe was no more enthusiastic.
(Of course, Roeg's next and most expensive film, Eureka, had even bigger problems, being pulled a couple of weeks after opening due to a libel lawsuit that kept it on the shelf for years. Since then, despite the not really successful brave try with Cold Heaven, he seems to be little more than a director for hire on a slew of disappointing pictures and cable movies.) As a result, it's been very hard to track down since its original release, but it's well worth the effort if you're looking for challenging fare.
Criterion's DVD boasts a much better transfer than the UK DVD (which only features a trailer) and a more comprehensive extras package - interviews with Russell, Roeg and producer Jeremy Thomas, stills gallery and 16 deleted scenes. However, the laziness that has crept into some recent Criterion discs is evident in the latter: while 8 of those deleted scenes have no soundtrack, surely it wouldn't have been asking too much of Criterion to have included subtitles for the missing dialogue or at least to have included an introductory caption explaining the scenes? It's an irritating blemish on an otherwise excellent disc."
SEXUAL OBSESSION'S DARK SIDE
Robin Simmons | Palm Springs area, CA United States | 09/26/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Nicolas Roeg fell in love with and married Theresa Russell, his leading lady in 1980's the little known BAD TIMING (Criterion) and it is easy to see why. Russell is a sexualized force of nature as the troubled Milena.
Set mostly in cold war Vienna, Milena interacts with the various men in her life. But it is Milena herself that is central to all that happens because she is not only beautiful but also sadly flawed. Is it a borderline personality disorder, a damaged childhood, or a bi-polar illness? Or is she just a self-centered, spoiled brat? Whatever, the problem, it makes for a fascinating, character-driven story as Milena's life impacts a psychoanalyst (Art Garfunkle), a detective (Harvey Keitel) and her older husband.
As expected from Roeg, a highly regarded cinematographer, the digital transfer of the carefully composed film is stunning. But what created the biggest stir when it was initially released was the raw sexuality and eyebrow raising body-part specific nudity. (Think THE scene with Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct.)
The great score includes Billie Holliday, The Who and Tom Waits among others.
This is not exactly a date movie or a feel good flick, but it is a fascinating and disturbingly honest look at sexual obsession and a not uncommon type of mental illness.
It is worth finding and seeing with someone with whom you are planning to break up. This one raises serious questions that we usually prefer to not talk about."
A very good Roeg period piece
Longlance | Calgary, Alberta | 07/16/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Innovative use of camera and flash-back sequences that might very well have inspired Tarentino distinguish this early 1980s classic, with memorable performances, even from Theresa Russell, and an understated script that reveals more through what is not said. The use of Klimt art work and the overall backdrop of the Vienna of Freud and Wittgenstein underscore the wistfulness of a once-grand intellectual centre in the same slow decay as the relationship depicted between Russell and Garfunkel. Denholm Eliott and Harvey Keitel give brilliantly understated supporting perfomances."
The JuRK | Our Vast, Cultural Desert | 09/27/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I think I've actually dated women like Theresa Russell in BAD TIMING, so I'm not sure if I should be the one to recommend this film to anyone: it almost plays like a documentary.
There was the one who told me that mental illness ran in her family and that her mother holds a laminated photo of Robert Redford up to her mouth for all-day conversations--and she told me that on our first date. There was the other one who spoke in a little girl's voice when the lights were out--every night. And the one who begged me to tie her up and then, when I'd relent, freak out and yell that she was an abused child. Yup, they're out there.
So maybe that's why I totally fell in love with Theresa Russell as the girl in this film: she brings out my worst instincts: I'm attracted to her and want to save her too. Bad timing, indeed. It always has been for me. Ms. Russell is brilliant in this. Actually, I first fell for her when I saw 1984's version of THE RAZOR'S EDGE first (yes, the Bill Murray version--I loved it).
I'm glad to see this film get the full Criterion treatment and look forward to seeing all the extras. It's a bold, challenging film that I put right up there with DON'T LOOK NOW and LAST TANGO IN PARIS.
(And, if you really liked this film, check out Art Garfunkel with Jack Nicholson and Ann Margaret in CARNAL KNOWLEDGE, another dark and funny look into sexual follies).
Paul Felix | 08/01/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What an impressive movie. More than anything else it deals with Milena's (Theresa Russell) Borderline Personality Disorder and the impact it has on the people around her: on Alex (Art Garfunkel), absorbed by her, loving and hating her and her chaos, probably for the rest of his life, regardless, as the final scene suggests... on her elderly husband, who so wisely states that love for her has to go beyond one's own dignity... on the detective (Harvey Keitel), who obviously is or was in a similar relationship and failed to come to terms with it... Certainly, the movie is dated, but the story is timeless.