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USA 1980
Directed by
Nicolas Roeg
117 minutes
Rated R

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Bad Timing

Bad Timing is a striking exploration of male desire and its repression and the positioning of the female within it.  It is a film that deals with typically Seventies themes of psycho-sexual perversity (other examples being Klute,1971, and The Night Porter, 1974).

Art Garfunkel is the sexually-obsessive and cowardly academic (handily and perhaps a little too obviously, a Freudian research psychologist at a Viennese university), Alex Linden, who is unable to deal with his relationship with the free-spirited Milena Flaherty (Theresa Russell sporting some truly dreadful wardrobe and hairdos). The film opens with Milena being rushed into hospital after having overdosed in, presumably, a suicide bid. Police Inspector Netusil (Harvey Keitel) however is not buying into Alex’s account of the events and the two men engage in a cat-and-mouse game to variously uncover and conceal the truth which the film slowly builds to in a series of flashbacks well edited by Tony Lawson  .

Roeg, in the exploratory spirit of the times bending the linear conventions of time and space as he first did with Douglas Cammell in Performance (1970), potently recreates the emotional and mental states of Alex and Milena. Whilst the core of the film is Alex’s warped subjectivity and the events surrounding Milena's overdose, it also has a sub-plot involving Milena's Czech husband (Denholm Elliott) which both reinforces Alex’s view of her as a capricious temptress and shows him, unlike her long-suffering, devoted spouse, as neurotically possessive of her.

Art Garfunkel in one of his few film appearances (the other major one being in Mike Nichol's thematically-related Carnal Knowledge,1971) is surprisingly effective as the passively aggressive male whilst both Theresa Russell and Harvey Keitel turn in strong performances. Denholm Elliot is an odd choice for the husband but his role is relatively peripheral to the main event.

Although Roeg is overly fond (though given the subject matter, appropriately so) of pointing his camera at Russell's crotch (they would subsequently marry and have two children) Bad Timing is a classic of its time.




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