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Nicolas Roeg delves into erotic obsession in this film, with surprising results…
Nazi_Fighter_David30 August 2008
His movie rates high in production value and acting and has an innovative approach to an old story…

The film is basically a character study… Alex (Art Garfunkel) is a depressingly dark and shadowy American psychoanalyst living in Vienna… Theresa Russell plays Milena, a resonant, carefree American girl… They meet by chance at a party and are thrown into a roller-coaster ride of an erotic relationship… He wants to smash her free spirit because he can't understand it, but she won't let him… The result is a near-fatal break-up…

Roeg comes close to the story from the middle (obeying Jean-Luc Godard's authoritative saying, a film "must have a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order." We quickly move to the different parts of Alex and Milena's relationship, moving through time as if it were Jell-O. The editing is intricate, but not confusing… As we change location back and forth, we begin to see more clearly how these two unlikely lovers ever got together…

The motion picture is filled with exceptional images, and Theresa Russell is outstanding…
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Roeg's forgotten masterwork
arturobandini20 June 2004
When BAD TIMING: A SENSUAL OBSESSION emerged in 1980, its distributor dropped it like a hot potato. Sex! Surgery! Semen stains! Strippers rolling around on meshy overwire! It was all too much for the Rank Organization, a fading production empire with a long history of releasing family classics like GREAT EXPECTATIONS. (Curiously, Rank did sponsor a 'Win a trip to Vienna, location of BAD TIMING!' publicity contest at early bookings). The only reason they financed the picture, allegedly, was for its Freudian-tinged pedigree. When they saw the finished product, they labeled it 'a film about sick people, made by sick people, for sick people.'

Deviant psychology is but one of the many twisted pleasures in this tragically neglected masterpiece from '70s visionary Nicolas Roeg. With iconoclastic films like WALKABOUT, DON'T LOOK NOW and MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH, Roeg pioneered a new kind of film language. He replaced traditional narrative storytelling with stunning photography, explicit carnality and a signature editing style of jump cuts, cross cuts and subliminal flicker cuts Mixmastered into a mosaic of multiple interpretations. (Unlike today's A.D.D.-inducing overkill, Roeg's fragmentary cutting technique always provided insight into character psychology.) To those of us weaned on art cinema in the '70s and energized by the limitless possibilities of the medium, Nicolas Roeg was (and remains) a god. No filmmaker since has picked up the maverick torch that this deity carried for more than a decade.

Trying to encapsulate BAD TIMING's nuanced, character-driven plot is like describing Europe in a postcard. Essentially, it's about an eroticized interpersonal attraction that goes horribly awry, spiraling into jealousy, paranoia and (of course) sexual obsession. Theresa Russell's wild child Milena (the personification of Henry James' headstrong American girl abroad) is compulsively drawn to a fellow Yank stationed in Austria -- the buttoned-down, Freudian shrink/visiting prof Dr. Linden. Their passionate affair has led to a potentially tragic outcome, and it's up to a local police inspector (Harvey Keitel) to sort out what went wrong, why, and whether criminal malice was involved.

What makes this relationship drama so compelling is Roeg's structure: the film starts in the middle, jumps ahead to the end, then back to the prologue within the first four minutes – and continues in a non-linear fashion until the final shot. It takes us viewers a while to get our bearing, but it also elicits our rapt attention to detail. Never are we certain if the cascading flashbacks are meant to be objective on the filmmaker's part, or the skewed perspective of one of the three main characters. Is Russell a victim, or a tramp? Is Garfunkel a creep, or is that just Keitel's projection? Is Keitel a sympathetic doppelganger, or a crafty manipulator? The stars turn in complex, though off-center performances. Keitel turns miscasting to his advantage; never has he underplayed 'menacing' like he does here. Garfunkel's lack of charisma will turn many viewers off, but he's 100% believable as a shrewd, unstable shrink. Yet it's Russell who's the revelation – those who subscribe to the lazy theory that she can't act will be astonished here. What she may lack in formal technique, she compensates with fearless commitment. Hers may be the most passionate performance by a 21-year old ever captured on film.

Tony Richmond's widescreen photography is particularly rich in color and composition (the film's look was based on the art of Gustav Klimt). He shows us a Vienna that's cold, academic, clinical – but electric whenever Russell's on screen. There's a sequence in a university courtyard where he changes lenses, practically from shot to shot, to convey Russell's emotional collapse. (In the background, Keith Jarrett's 'Köln Concert' mourns her sad dilemma.) It's a heartbreaking passage, poetically surpassed only by the connecting shot of Garfunkel brooding through a polarized car windshield at daybreak. Frequently Richmond balances the stars' close-ups on the very edge of the screen, which is why the film's power is neutered on cable TV, where 2/3 of the image is lopped off. In that pan-and-scan atrocity, the screen is forever hovering on backgrounds and earlobes.

The real tragedy is that BAD TIMING has never been released on any home video format, and I fear it may never happen. It was made at a time when music licenses weren't automatically cleared for home viewing. Considering the eclectic soundtrack incorporates Jarrett, Tom Waits, The Who, Billie Holiday, Harry Partch and others, the idea of renegotiating deals at this point would be any lawyer's nightmare. Even worse, Roeg himself believes the few prints that Rank struck are probably lost or damaged beyond repair, and one fears for the state of the negative. My overlong, effusive review here is a direct plea for a rescue operation. Is any entrepreneurial DVD-releasing outfit willing to salvage this forgotten treasure from obscurity and give it the best letterboxed release possible? Once people are able to see this film as it was intended – for the first time in 24 years or more – I believe its reputation will grow immeasurably. There is simply no other film like it, and, based on current popular trends, nor will there ever be.
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My Life
FrostyChud12 August 2013
I've just returned after seeing this movie and it has messed your dude up. This was my life for the two years I spent with my Milena. The parallels are uncanny. I am kind of nerdy just like Garfunkel...same pathetic physique...but like Garfunkel I have a certain magnetism. Garfunkel's not exactly a wimp...there's some steel in his gaze. My Milena was just as magnetic and beautiful as Theresa Russell...really. My Milena also lived in a sordid, messy, sexy aerie with a big bed, overfull ashtrays, half-read books everywhere. The alcohol? Check. The infidelity? Check. The suicide attempts? Check. The much older other man? Check. The sleazy, disgusting party friends? Check. The late-night drunk calls that may or may not have been suicide attempts? Check. The intense sex that regularly turned into something twisted? Check. Just like Garfunkel I was hooked...just like Garfunkel I had a "together" God, I even study psychoanalysis...and just like Garfunkel there was more than a hint of bad faith in the togetherness I opposed to my Milena's sloppiness. Like Garfunkel, the idea that Milena had other lovers made me Theresa Russell, my Milena needed secrets...lies...she couldn't breathe without her lies and secrets.

The scene where she sets Garfunkel up with her fake suicide attempt only to loose the full force of her hysterical cruelty on him...check...down to the blows and the broken bottles...and it marked the moment our love died, even if things dribbled on for a while after that. get the picture. You know a movie is good when it shows you things about YOUR OWN life that you hadn't noticed before. That's the secret of a great movie: you feel like it's talking to you and to you alone. I have a feeling I'm not the only person who walked out of the cinema feeling like he had just seen his own life on the screen. Almost everything is perfect. This film is even more disturbing than DON'T LOOK NOW. That is saying a lot. The one wrong note for me was Harvey Keitel. I liked the contrast of his healthy virility with Garfunkel's nerdiness...but Keitel got something wrong. Not sure was certainly a tricky role, and he wasn't exactly bad, but something was wrong.
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Doubts that Bind
tedg22 February 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Love is internal. It is sustained by questions of doubt, tension, expectation. The solidity of the hand is strengthened by the slipperiness underfoot.

So suppose you wanted to make a film about the fields that animate your anchor relationships. You couldn't do what everyone else does: deal with the tokens: the looks, the physical moving away of bodies and then re-entering. You want it to have the passion it deserves, which is a tricky thing: the passion in the relationships between the film and the viewer has to be based on the same field of passion between lovers. That field requires faith to overcome doubt. This need for investing in love as a counter to the doubts about love is what drives us, with religion and tribalisms as mere side effects.

Roeg wanted to do this. During a certain sweet spot in his career, he could shape any story into this, a story about what makes story. And to do it all by cinematic misdirection. This isn't "Last Year at Marienbad," which is abstract. This is internal, subconscious, but with the real fleshy stuff we actually dream in.

Some viewers will think this is a simple detective story. Bad guy lies; insistent detective catches him. It is all about sequence, the "timing" of the title. What happens first; how the thing is "explained."

But I believe this is something much more important. Like Roeg's other films, these are dreams. The things that happen here — that we see — drift close to what actually happens, and then away being more like imagined fears.

It is all about urges; the grandest passions rest on a collection of urges, most of which slip into uncontrollable futures.

I will advise you to approach this as something that goes on in the character's soul. Polanski and Kiesloswki have the same relationship to reality, but here we work closer to image and the uncontrollable ends.

The overall shape of thing is a love affair, one that is deep and all-consuming. The hero/filmmaker's mind has some tools that allow us to enter the world of dreams:

— He is a "research psychoanalyst" in Vienna. This is the most unlikely of cities for intellect, and even today produces ideas that fold in on themselves in tightly wound ways. Roeg quotes "The Third Man" a bit, and assembles a number of Austrian artifacts, all having something to do with control. It is Wittgenstein in his first period.

— He is a spy. He lectures about spies. He spies on patients as a theorist of obsession. He literally works for a spy agency, spying on the woman, who in other identities he is falling in love with. This is Wittgenstein in his second period, having renounced the genius of his knotted mind and theories of word play as mazes.

— He is a detective, instanced as a second being, a sort of "Fight Club" alter ego that examines himself from the outside. This is Wittgenstein in his third, suicidal period, where his work was on himself. He literally builds a container, a house, here a film. Harvey Keitel since Taxi Driver understood the idea of playing and imagined other. Garfunkle's cluelessness as a person and actor is overwhelmed by him, just as that part of the character's mind is.

These three fight for control of self over a woman. The film is so effective, and so energetically unsprung that there is a fourth layer outside. Roeg himself developed an obsession over this woman, falling deeply in love with her. (He would marry her.)

The visual storytelling, the editing, the timeshifting, the identity swapping, the depth of texture could not have been as effective were he not obsessively in love in the three ways of the doctor.

The genius of starting with Tom Waits and ending with Jarrett's Koln concert is by itself enough to make this an essential experience.

Ted's Evaluation -- 4 of 3: Every cineliterate person should experience this.
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Art Garfunkel surprised me in this one
philip_vanderveken2 August 2005
When this movie was shown on television a couple of days ago, I had never heard of it before, but given the fact that it has received less than 600 votes until now, even though it is already from 1980, means that I'm not the only one who didn't know of its existence. Apparently some things went wrong with the distribution and the dark content of the movie was probably not what they were used to see at that time either. Does that mean that it is a bad movie? Far from it, the story for instance is multi-layered, interesting and quite impressive.

It all starts with a young American woman who is brought to a hospital in Vienna after a suicide attempt by overdosing on pills. But the police detective that investigates the case suspects that there is more going on than what her lover, an American psychology professor, wants to admit. As the doctors do everything possible to save the woman's life, the professor is thoroughly interrogated by the detective. Through a series of flashbacks, we see how the relationship between the two started and evolved and what that had to do with the suicide attempt. Everything will be shown: their passionate sexual relationship, her drinking problem, the numerous affairs that both have, her hidden marriage...

As I already said, this is a multi-layered story. For me, that makes this movie only more interesting, but I have the feeling that not that many people can cope with it, as today we are only used to see straight and easy stories which don't demand too much of our brains. This movie combines all kinds of aspects like espionage during the Cold War, romance, thriller, drama,... but always feels like one solid film. That only proves the skills of the director and the screenwriter of course. It was the first time that I saw a movie from the hand of director Nicolas Roeg and Yale Udoff is a complete stranger to me as well. But together they made the entire story work.

The fact that this is such a solid movie also has a lot to do with the good acting. Not that I expected anything else from people like Harvey Keitel and Theresa Russell, but Art Garfunkel certainly surprised me. Normally I don't like all those singers / would-be actors who only appear in movies to get the movie a larger audience (not that it worked this time) and not because they know anything about acting. But when their performance is OK, I'll be the first one to admit it as well and so I say here that Art Garfunkel was really very good in this movie.

Overall this is a very good movie with an interesting story and some very fine acting. It's too bad that it isn't better known, because it certainly deserves to be seen by a much larger audience. I give this movie at least a 7.5/10, maybe even an 8/10.
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The psychology of sexual obsession artistically exposed
emdragon23 October 2004
Art Garfunkel in his one great role as an American college psychology professor lusting after student Theresa Russell somewhere in Austria set in the late 70s. The camera work is amazing and keeps the same pace as the subtle plot lines and aesthetically deft sound score. Harvey Keitel plays a systematically intense police detective who has to unravel the near death of Russell following a harrowing sexual attack and drug overdose. Garfunkel is moody, and sophisticated, while never controlling as much as he is controlled by Ms Russell's ingenuous charms. Quite a psychological thriller, and a movie completely in it's own fresh mold. Anybody coming upon this film for the first time will find themselves drawn into the amazing weave which will entice them, and engage self-sexual questioning that is quite capable of opening one's own sexual subconscious. And, just for a treat. . . it almost seems as if every frame of this film is an art-piece in and of itself.
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intense work from forgotten master
p-keane10 June 2003
Bad Timing is not an easy film, but one that rewards effort. Art Garfunkel joins the line (Jagger, Bowie) of singers who produced career best acting performances for this director - the scene of him smoking while staring over a bridge into the abyss of his life is worth buying the dvd alone - and Theresa Russell is simply incendiary. The story is a relatively simple one of how two people who should never have got together become obsessed with each other, but is told in Nicolas Roeg's fluid, labyrinthine style with flashes back and forward and disconcerting edits. The sexual content is extreme for some tastes, but raw and painfully honest in a way which defies simple titillation. Intense work from one of the giants of British and world cinema, now sadly neglected, and one of a string of great films, Performance, Walkabout, Don't Look Now and The Man Who Fell to Earth which mark Nicolas Roeg out as a great director.
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A Creepy, Riveting, Stunner!
aaron-7111 February 2000
This film will always have a soft spot in my heart because it introduced me to Tom Waits' music. His song Invitation to the Blues brilliantly opens this unsettling story of a snobby professor's "ravishing" of a free spirit. I don't know why this film has never been released on video. My viewpoints of the characters has changed over the years in this complex film. Art Garfunkel's obsession with Theresa Russell feels more unnerving with each viewing. It's probably the first and only sort-of mainstream film to represent near-necrophilia. Harvey Keitel's strange motivation for wanting a confession out of Art seems more complicated as the film progresses. Theresa is brilliant in the female lead.
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Complex and shocking and riveting
answar79792 September 2003
I saw this film when it was originally released and it still ranks as my all-time favorite. From the opening strains of Tom Waits' gritty "Invitation to the Blues" (which is cut off by the wail of an ambulance!) every aspect--music, scenery, the astonishing acting--melds together into a masterpiece.

Theresa Russell is simply a knockout as Milena, a woman who refuses to be "owned". She's beautiful, sexy, carefree, and absolutely infuriating to Art Garfunkel's psychologist Dr. Linden. His compulsion to control her leads to disaster, and Garfunkel's performance is absolutely astonishing. The expression on his face in the final scene is unforgettable. It haunts me still.
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my kind of relationship drama- and I am NOT a sick person! I think...
Quinoa19847 February 2008
Bad Timing is Nicholas Roeg's film about a relationship that is fueled by an obsessive passion, more or less, on both sides, and ends in a kind of mutual destruction. This has been fodder for many an independent film, but Roeg and his screenwriter attempt the material with a twist (Roeg, perhaps in his own distinct sensibility as an auteur, more-so). They're attempting to dissect it by a manner that goes along with how a mind works through a relationship after the fact, through memories of what worked, what didn't at all, what's foggy, what's crazy, subtle bits that connect more directly to others, and essentially reveals as much as any one person can think about the individuals in their link. Throw in a little detective/criminal mystery entanglement, some trademark Roeg editing and narrative technique, and sprinkle some of the most appropriately steamy (and appropriately disturbing) mature sexual context in a movie since Last Tango, and you've got a sort of cult classic.

It's the kind of work that, as someone who loves getting a filmmaker who approaches things from a skewed perspective almost like an intellectual, is nearly inspiring. I didn't gain mind-blowing Bergmanesque insights into the realm of a torn relationship, but it's enough to squash competition that might show up late at night on IFC. It deals with a psychology professor, Alex Linden (Art Garfunkel, the most unlikely of male leads for a sexually charged and complex individual, but out-does his previous turn in Carnal Knowledge as a subtle performer of a man in total emotional crisis), and his romance with young Milena (the extraordinary Theresa Russel, arguably her best performance to date, soul pouring out like it's her one and only chance to shine), who is possibly already married to a much older man across the Vienna border (Denhalm Elliot, great in his few scenes).

They have powerful lust and some good times, even in Morocco of all places, but... they just don't click, due to Alex not being able to let go of what Milena does, almost in a "every breath you take" style (watch as the Who's "Who Are You" is used in the most stirring effect imaginable). Without saying too much, something terrible happens to Milena, a hospital stay occurs, and an investigation (overnight, of course) happens between a detective (long-haired Harvey Keitel, compelling even when it's only in the smallest, two-note spurts) which leads to a test of pure existential upheaval. But Roeg firstly approaches the style like it's a shuffleboard of images and scenes, moods and thoughts, and it's a wonderful experiment in subjective approach. Many post-modern filmmakers only wish to try and make a film dealing with genre (i.e. crime/gangsters) like this, but Roeg does it sometimes subliminally, cut-aways implying sexual interaction and obsession that go the opposite way of the pondering style of a Last Tango (i.e. the operation scene, a cut-away between a tense gynecological exam during surgery and sex).

The other thing that Roeg wisely does, as he did do sort of in Walkabout, is to let the actors play up to their strengths. While it was trickier to to as a director, and to actually notice in the finished product, in Walkabout, in Bad Timing there are countless scenes where we see the actors tapping into the characters full-throttle, and revealing little layers in the script that wouldn't be present in a more conventional treatment. It's simple to say this kind of material would get shut out at the door in Hollywood. Sure it would; it's a tale where lurid details (and truly disturbing ones, more-so for how they linger in the mind than how they're shown) seem to mask the more vulnerable shades of the story. But it's difficult to say that it might have more appeal than the one infamous quote "a sick movie made by sick people for sick people" seems to suggest.

It is rough going at times, and not your grandmother's story of love gone awry. But it challenges perceptions and tries to pierce through certain concepts of what men expect from women and women expect from men: the lies, the hiding, being open, being free, being who we are in front of one another. At the end, what is the "bond" in a relationship? Do we know one another really? Roeg leaves it up to us to decide... in his sick way. And it's one of my favorites of 1980.
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Excellent Film, Excellent Russell Performance
jdwayside17 January 2006
Theresa Russell plays her character with an amazing degree of depth and variety in this film. She's sexy, vivacious, fun-loving, wanton, capricious, headstrong, and yet vulnerable to the soulless, self-serving shrink portrayed chillingly well by Art Garfunkel. Theresa's character is very lifelike and (despite the character's flaws, both obvious and subtle) also quite sympathetic.

This is not an easy film to watch. For one thing, it's rather non-linear, and flits around between several different times and places. Rather than telling a story as such, it's more of a jigsaw puzzle, the pieces of which are revealed and placed one at a time. For another, it's actually rather unnerving to watch the process of her dissolution, both due to how realistically it's shown and the fact that we want to like Malena (or at least I did).

If you're at all a fan of Russell, I think you'll find that this is one of her best performances ever, and the direction and staging are first-rate.

(It was also a bit weird to see Harvey Keitel with long hair.)
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"If we don't meet, there's the possibility that it could have been perfect"
wilderfan18 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Based on an obscure Italian novel, Nicolas Roeg's upsetting and brilliant film details the doomed affair between a cruel psychoanalyst and a melodramatic free spirit. The film begins with the girl comatose and a detective investigates the circumstances. Through flashbacks, the audience learns a terrifying love story has ended with a criminal act.

What makes this film so uncomfortable is that it relentlessly focuses on a time in our lives that most of us would like to forget- that is, the time when you know is relationship is doomed, but you have to wait until it hits rock bottom before you finally part ways. Roeg understands that people can't divorce themselves from their emotions, even when they know intellectually that something is wrong.

Although Theresa Russell as Milena is the undoubted star of the film- she simply overpowers everything with her vivacity and directness- special mention must be made of the "miscast" male leads. Art Garfunkel gives a superb, selfless performance as Alex Linden. Alex is not a sympathetic character. He's a controlling, possessive person who gathers data on his unpremeditating mistress. Even an innocent game (the Luscher color test) ends up as part of a psychological profile that's handed in to a security agency. He's resentful as he watches Milena kiss other men but doesn't confront her about it until she's helplessly sprawled on the floor. He never relaxes except in post-coital moments and he becomes frustrated that Milena is untamed, unmarriageable and has a past that she won't share or give up.

Harvey Keitel is very charismatic, if unconvincing as an Austrian detective. His performance as the moralistic Inspector Netusil (the name refers to somebody who knows everything who knows one small detail) does not soften the arrogance or the self-righteousness of the character. A thorough investigator who knows that there's more to the case than a suicide attempt- he says plainly "How, Dr. Linden, do you account for a girl getting in such a state- drugs, depressions?" Milena is somebody who has no idea who has no idea what she wants out of life, sees pleasure as an end in itself and is prone to bouts of melodrama and selfishness. The best scene in the film is her drunken outburst at her uncaring lover: "We are celebrating the death of the Milena and the birth of the Milena you do want". It's a powerful sequence, but it begs the question- why would this beautiful, intelligent girl let herself get so messed up? Beautifully shot by Roeg's regular cinematographer Anthony Richmond and filled with small, telling moments (e.g. the handwritten note that says "I wish you understood me less and loved me more"), this is a picture that demands multiple viewings. Roeg at his peak made the busiest films of all time- they're bursting at the seams with ideas and this film, often shocking and heartbreaking, is one of his most accessible. It's unfortunate that this brilliant movie is not more well known- maybe Roeg was right when he said "people don't like it when you hold a mirror to their face".
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Extraordinary, powerful movie - a masterpiece
Kansas-529 July 2000
This is Roeg at his best. Incredible script, stellar camerawork, dark and convoluted plot. Exquisite exposition of the nature of obsession. I believe the rapid cuts between the emergency room and sexual passion were off putting for many reviewers, and they couldn't see Theresa Russell's magnificent performance in that scene for what it really was.

Roeg is never easy, but neither is Franz Kafka.
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BAD TIMING (Nicolas Roeg, 1980) ***1/2
Bunuel19766 May 2006
BAD TIMING is the one Nicolas Roeg film (from his initial period of peerlessly brilliant movies) which had so far eluded me; actually, for some reason, I had missed out on its one and only TV screening in my neck of the woods.

Following in the footsteps of Mick Jagger in PERFORMANCE (1970) and David Bowie in THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH (1976), Art Garfunkel was the third pop star to be engaged as an actor by Roeg. Harvey Keitel, on the other hand, was not Roeg's first choice for Inspector Netusil: the role had previously been offered to Albert Finney and Bruno Ganz (both of whom turned it down) and Malcolm McDowell (who was unavailable). While their casting is indeed eccentric, contrary to the general opinion, I found them both very good in their difficult roles. Despite her young age and the complexity of the character she was playing, the stunning Theresa Russell - who turned down SUPERMAN (1978) to do this but, ironically, is now currently engaged on SPIDER-MAN 3! - is simply astonishing in the film and she should by rights have become a huge star because of it; as it is, she ended up being criminally underused and her career has subsequently been disappointingly uneven.

While the film's working title was ILLUSIONS, its eventual title could be referring to the chance meeting between Garfunkel and Russell at a party (had either of them left earlier, they might never have met), to Garfunkel's inexplicably sluggish movements on the night of Russell's suicide attempt (which are under Keitel's dogged scrutiny) or even to estranged husband Denholm Elliott's reporting of Russell's recovery just as Garfunkel is about to break down under Keitel's relentless questioning and confess to his ravishment of her while she was practically comatose. Tragically, Garfunkel's plight in the film was eerily mirrored in real-life towards the end of shooting when his own girlfriend Laurie Bird - whose brief acting career included two films for Monte Hellman, TWO-LANE BLACKTOP (1971) and COCKFIGHTER (1974) - committed suicide in their apartment. Clearly one of Roeg's most personal films, BAD TIMING is not only a harrowing study of male-female relationships or more precisely "l'amour fou", but is also another depiction by Roeg (as had been the case with all his previous pictures) of characters stranded in a foreign land, in this case two Americans in Vienna. In hindsight, the tumultuous and almost deadly Garfunkel-Russell relationship is mirrored in the one between Garfunkel and Keitel, especially in the film's latter stages when the interrogation and subsequent revelation take center stage; the latter sequences, then, are capped by an enigmatic ending - due to Elliott's nick-of-time appearance and subsequent dematerialization - could this be a figment of Garfunkel's agitated state of mind? BAD TIMING is shot in Roeg's typically fragmented style which, this time around, can perhaps be explained by the fact that the narrator (Art or Theresa) is under a lot of emotional (Keitel's interrogation of Art) and physical (Theresa's life-saving surgery) strain. In another sense, BAD TIMING can even be seen as a sophisticated precursor to the erotic thrillers so prevalent in filmdom from the late-80s onwards.

For the third consecutive time, Anthony Richmond serves as director of photography for Roeg and the film also boasts a splendidly eclectic soundtrack - Billy Holliday, Keith Jarrett, The Who, Tom Waits, not to mention some typical Viennese zither music a' la THE THIRD MAN (1949) - an inspired choice to be sure but, ironically, the prohibitive rights issue costs were also one of the reasons why BAD TIMING has been out of the public eye for so long.

The Criterion DVD is therefore a very welcome introduction for me to this essential film. Intriguingly, it transpires that the film's backers, The Rank Organization, dubbed BAD TIMING "a sick film by sick people for sick people" and subsequently not only dropped their famous gong logo from the credit titles but refused to show it in their chain of theaters! Interestingly, the outline of the story emerged from an aborted collaboration between Roeg and famed Italian producer Carlo Ponti. Disappointingly, unlike Criterion's other Roeg DVDs, WALKABOUT (1971) and THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH, there is no Audio Commentary to be found here although Roeg is in a jovial mood in the accompanying interview. Also, a couple of the deleted scenes were quite good, particularly one in which Russell crashes a party and embarrasses Garfunkel with her drunken and lewd antics. For the record, during the four-year hiatus between THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH and BAD TIMING, Roeg had been connected with several high-profile projects which were eventually helmed by other people, namely FLASH GORDON (Mike Hodges, 1980), HAMMETT (Wim Wenders, 1982) and OUT OF Africa (Sydney Pollack, 1985). Unfortunately, Roeg's decline has proved to been one of the saddest in recent memory but his two current productions - PUFFBALL and ADINA - sound promising at least and hopefully they will come to fruition eventually!

Actually, after this viewing of BAD TIMING, I regret not purchasing Roeg's previous film, THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH, when Deep Discount DVD had their recent Criterion sale. However, I should be giving Roeg's subsequent film, (also starring his then wife Theresa Russell) EUREKA (1984), a first look via my VHS copy; actually, had it not been for the recent interview with the still gorgeous Russell conducted for the BAD TIMING DVD, I wouldn't have known that Roeg and Russell had separated!
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A brilliant film about emotional instability, love, hate, madness and crime.
sub_mish21 March 2006
I can't wait to see this masterpiece again. I hate slushy romantic flicks but this is not one of them.

The world of people with extremely unstable emotions is brilliantly evoked in this film.

I love the way they are both *so* messed up. There is no happy ending, this is no fairy-tale romance. The constant breakups, the creepy, almost stalking behaviours, the outbursts, the attacks and counter-attacks and violence and general hell that is borderline personality - it's all there.

Russell's character is a complete mess - drunk, angry, crazy - she has a string of boyfriends with whom she rows constantly, she smashes things up, she smashes herself up and generally goes completely ape.

Garfunkel is brilliant - he has much the same trouble as his girlfriend but he *seems* more subdued, although he hides it better, he keeps coming back to her because *he's the same*.

Keitel's detached, manipulating cop who tries to unravel the whole thing is probably his best ever work. He's either the consummate professional, calmly picking up the pieces after some crazy and damaged people have been desperately trying to destroy themselves and each other, or he's a crafty, manipulating, evil so-and-so - you're never quite sure.

If you like seriously messed-up movies, this film is for you!
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loved it... and struggled with it
richy295 September 1999
Warning: Spoilers
I really couldn't accurately describe the contents of this movie. It's about a destructive love affair between a man played by Art Garfunkel and a woman played by Theresa Russel. Russel has attempted to commit suicide. In the hospital they're fighting for her life as Garfunkel is interrogated by a detective (Harvey Keitel) about what really happened. Slowly the real story unfolds and the viewer learns about the darker sides in both characters.

Roeg switches back and forth in the chronology of the story and that makes Bad Timing an intriguing but difficult movie. The secrets that are uncovered are very shocking but one can still 'empathize' (if not sympathize) with the characters.

In my opinion it's about stretching the line between good intentions and evil doings. The good part is that you can't really tell in which moment the line is crossed.

See it and then see it again.
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a well-accomplished, counter-cultural, innately candid examination on modern relationship and sex philosophy
lasttimeisaw5 May 2017
Nicolas Roeg's little-circulated relationship dissertation between an American psychiatrist Alex Linden (Garfunkel) and a young American woman Milena (Russell) in Cold War Vienna has an uncanny and scandalizing paralleled real life happening befalls on its leading actor Art Garfunkel.

After its glittering opening sequences of a Gustav Klimt's exhibition, the film starts with an unconscious Milena rushed to the hospital in the middle of the night accompanied by Alex in the ambulance, ostensibly from an overdose, and in reality, during the film's shooting, Garfunkel's then girlfriend Laurie Bird, committed suicide by taking an overdose of Valium in New York, aged 26.

With that hindsight, one is prone to understand Garfunkel's sometimes perversely surly and tangibly perturbed state when facing off with either a barnstorming Russell or a probing Harvey Keitel, who plays Inspector Netusil, exerts himself in teasing out the truth out of a buttoned-up Alex, as the film's title refers, the timing of Alex's recount about the incident doesn't comply with the physical facts (car radio, Milena's state, etc.).

Predominantly, Roeg expertly expounds Alex and Milena's torrid affair by punctuating its aftermath story-line with stacks of flashback in a random arrangement, from the starting point when Milena says farewell to her much older Czech husband Stefan Vognic (Elliott) in the Czech/Austria border, to the pair's encounter, dating, a Northern Africa vacation (prompts Alex's proposal of marriage), to the toxic disintegration due to their incongruity (Lüscher's color test Vs. Paul Bowles' The Sheltering Sky, are the obvious visual pointers). It seems that it is Alex who breaches his work ethic to strike the romance with his client in the first place, then we are repeatedly subjected to the disappointment of Alex's incompetency of his own profession, his botched attempt to understand a freewheeling Milena's psychological status, which can be encapsulated in one sentence (I'm paraphrasing here) "to love a woman tremendously, to love her more than one's own dignity", a pitfall hounds most men in our patriarchal society. But meanwhile, Roeg and screenwriter Yale Udoff also show up the mercurial side of Milena's persona, she professes to be a free-spirited soul, morally unattached, physically liberated, but more often than not, she is the one who backslides into pestering Alex after their breakup, which trenchantly confounds that very statement. It is a self-destructive game which takes two to tango, a woman's congenital insecurity meets a man's unrelieved self-regard, that's what Roeg rams home to us albeit his very distracting M.O.

Honestly, it is a mind-bending journey, strewn with zeitgeist reflecting tunes (Billie Holiday, Tom Waits, The Who and counting), where the two leads engaging in graphic sexual acts (and they are nowhere near aesthetically pretty), or exchanging their thoughts in soft-focus treatment. Meantime, the apparently persisting investigation from Netusil, eventually reaches its lurid conclusion without ever sweetening the pills, it nails the psychological nitty-gritty in the face of its morally repugnant revelation.

BAD TIMING, a pertinent name for its own ill-fated reception upon its release, is a well- accomplished, counter-cultural, innately honest examination on the caprice, intransigence, and ambivalence of modern relationship and sex philosophy, powered by strong performances, in particular, a spontaneously ravishing Theresa Russell.
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Intriguing and underrated
kittyspaz27 May 2005
I first became aware of this film a few weeks ago, when IFC was doing an "IFZ weekend" homage to Z Channel (watch the documentary if you get a chance). Anyway, they showed the film a few times, but something always interrupted me from seeing it all the way through. So I bought the DVD from eBay and watched it in its entirety--I HAD to know what happened. WOW! My heart was pounding like a jackhammer during the denouement, and I was absolutely blown away by the film as a whole. It certainly demands multiple viewings, as I finally was able to piece things together that I had not before. I'm sure if I watch it again I'll catch even more subtlety. The character studies are fascinating, and Garfunkel and Russell are just stunning. It's a story that anyone that has been in a messed up relationship (hello, who HASN'T?!)can relate to--especially unrequited first love/obsession.
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A psychological journey with most of the milestones missing
JamesHitchcock8 October 2008
In the 1970s Nicolas Roeg had a reputation as something of an experimental avant-garde director whose style was noted for non-linear narrative, extensive cross-cutting involving the juxtaposition of contrasting images and a brooding sense of menace and foreboding. His first two films as sole director were both excellent ones, "Walkabout" from 1971 and "Don't Look Now" from 1973, but I have never cared for his third film, the overlong, confusing and self-consciously arty "The Man who Fell to Earth".

"Bad Timing", made in 1980, was Roeg's fourth film. The narrative is non-linear in the extreme. It opens with a young American woman, Milena Vognic, being rushed to hospital in Vienna after a drug overdose, probably a suicide attempt. In a series of flashbacks we learn about Milena's past- her marriage to her older Czech husband Stefan, from whom she is estranged (it is not made clear whether they are actually divorced), and her stormy relationship with her boyfriend Alex, an American-born lecturer at Vienna University. Intercut with these are scenes showing Milena lying in the hospital and showing Alex being interviewed by a detective who suspects him of foul play.

Roeg suffered the misfortune of seeing his film disowned by its distributor, the Rank Organisation, who denounced it as "a film about sick people, made by sick people, for sick people". (I say "misfortune", but I suspect that actually a lot of art-house directors would regard criticism like that as a badge of honour). What upset them was presumably the explicit sex scenes, although Rank really should have known what to expect from Roeg. He was, after all, the man responsible for "Don't Look Now", with its controversial love scene between Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie.

In one respect, however, Rank's criticism is accurate; "Bad Timing" is indeed a film about "sick people". Milena and Alex are clearly, psychologically speaking, damaged goods. Their relationship is essentially a sadomasochistic one- not physical sadomasochism but a form of emotional sadomasochism involving both mutual desire and mutual loathing. The film can be seen as a psychological case-study; it is significant that psychology is the subject which Alex teaches, and also that the film is set in Vienna, the city of Freud.

I have nothing against non-linear narration in principle; it can often be an effective (sometimes the most effective) way of telling a story. It is, moreover, not necessarily a modernist or avant-garde idea. Those who think of it as an invention of the French "Nouvelle Vague" of the sixties should watch John Brahm's "The Locket" from 1946, a film with a particularly intricate "flashback within a flashback within a flashback" structure. (That film was also a psychological case study). In the case of "Bad Timing", however, the film's narrative structure makes it confusing and difficult to follow. Although it aims at a psychological study of the two main characters, we do not learn enough about them to enable us to understand them. I was left wanting to know more about the background to Milena's relationship with Alex (and, even more, about her rather mysterious relationship with Stefan). As the critic of "Variety" put it, most of the milestones are missing from the characters' tortuous psychological route.

Another criticism I would have would be the casting of Art Garfunkel as Alex. Much as I admire Garfunkel for his musical achievements, he was not, on the evidence of this film, much of an actor. Roeg clearly liked using rock stars in his films, because the leading role in "The Man who Fell to Earth" is taken by David Bowie, an equally unsuccessful piece of casting. (To be fair to Bowie, he was to give better performances in some of his later films).

The gorgeous Theresa Russell, who was later to become Roeg's wife, is better as Milena, and, as is often the case with Roeg, there are some striking visual touches. Overall, however, "Bad Timing" is the sort of experimental film which reminds us that not every experiment, whether in science or the arts, is a successful one. 4/10
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Two Neurotics Duke It Out
gcarter118 November 2002
Director Nicolas Roeg has managed to take a half hour story and extend it for 129 minutes. What you see in "Bad Timing" is a series of contests between two of the most neurotic lovers outside of "Damage" from 1992. The main characters are a professor of psychiatry, appropriately, and a young woman who demands that others allow her to live for the moment. Scene after scene we watch these two attempt to dominate each other. Their sexual couplings make the bed into an arena of emotional endurance. The loser is left crying or pleading and the winner, always unsatisfied, wants still more.

The film, rather than having a plot, is a process. We watch -- my excuse was to wait for a plot -- this sickness for over two hours and find no redemption for the characters nor for us. No reward exists at the end of the shabby rainbow.

As for mechanics, Art Garfunkle, who plays the professor, has the depth and spice of a soda cracker. He attempts to play a passionate playboy, but I can never quite get "The Sounds of Silence" out of my head. Funky and quirky Jeremy Irons, would have been a perfect choice for the part. The talented Harvey Keitel, here a sadly dysfunctional police detective, is wasted with lines dripping psycho-babble as he pleads with the professor during an interrogation. Theresa Russell, who plays the object of the professor's obsession, is given the only good lines in the film. Her role is so well-portrayed that her character occasionally engages our sympathy.

If you are in the mood for some pretentious nonsense, or want to give Art Garfunkel one more chance, check this one out. Otherwise, get neurotic on your own.
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A magnificent work.Well worth watching!
fatcatzdeadratz21 April 2001
Bad Timing is a unique work.This is portrayed through its well crafted magnificent use of colour,flamboyant style and its laid back calmness.This makes the film very watchable and easy going on the eye.

The films strange and almost abortive plot keeps you enthuised right through till the end.I would highly rate this film and recommend it to anyone.If its a high paced film your looking for, this film is not for you.Just sit back relax and enjoy the magic of this outstanding work.
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One of the best movies ever
Heaven-914 June 1999
A woman (Theresa Russel) tried to commit suicide. While her life is fought for in a hospital, (Art Garfunkel) the man who called the ambulance is being questioned (great cutting!) about his relations to her.

The rest is to save for people who haven't seen the film.

"Way ahead of it's time" cutting, acting, photography, directing, made this story, which is almost impossible to tell, plausible and makes the film full of suspense.
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Neurotic relationship as horror story
tiger7eye17 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I just saw this film -- somehow in the last 25 years it just never made it on to my "must see" list. I mean, Art Garfunkel???

However -- it is an amazingly effective depiction of emotional reality within a neurotic relationship. The histrionic Theresa Russell is inexplicably in love with the narcissistic psychiatrist played by Art Garfunkel, who is sexually obsessed with her. Or is it Russell's character who is obsessed?

As an acting amateur, Garfunkel's lack of expressiveness works well to demonstrate his self-involvement and absence of interest in his partner as a unique individual. Surprisingly, he communicates sexual fascination most effectively. The chemistry between the two personalities -- one hot, one cold -- is gripping. It seems that an intense and mutual sexual bond is what keeps these two disordered personalities coming back for more craziness.

The climax of the film reveals the psychiatrist's deadening ambivalence towards his lover. Ultimately, Bad Timing is just as much a horror story as Roeg's Don't Look Now. Fully realized from the first minute to the last, it is a movie by adults for adults.
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a great film
christopher-underwood19 February 2017
As usual when revisiting a film after several years, I am surprised at how little I remember, other than the tone and how much I had enjoyed it or otherwise. Here I had a problem, although the scenes unfolded as if unseen, I did recall how things turned out. In truth this is not quite so but enough for the 'memory' to affect how I saw the relationship as played out by Art Garfunkel and Teresa Russell. Previously I had seen the free flowing and spirited behaviour portrayed by Russell, possibly in need of the reasoned checking as applied by Garfunkel. Feeling that I knew the outcome I found myself less sympathetic to him and more so to her, hence a crucial redrawing of the relationship that is so central to the film. It remains a great film and as well as the sensational and brave performance from Russell and the appropriately more measured one from Art , we get a wonderful one from Harvey Keitel.
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APWhite929 August 2015
This film has very fortunately been restored by Criterion so now we have appropriate access to the film and an excellent remaster of it. The film is better than I original anticipated. Timeless film. The story and themes are relevant today. I can think of a couple films like it from more recent years, but this one is like the master of them all. Excellent characters and performances. Arguably, the casting could not have been better. This film was ahead of it's time. Even the sense of humor it has is just modern. There's a lot of depth. Definitely a film that must be seen again and again to fully absorb. It should make one wonder. May this film go down in history and live on.
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