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USA 1980
Directed by
Nicolas Roeg
117 minutes
Rated R

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4.5 stars

Bad Timing

Bad Timing is a brilliantly-constructed exploration of male desire and its repression and the positioning of the female within it. Written by Yale Udoff and well edited by Tony Lawson it is a film that deals with typically Roegian and 1970s themes of psycho-sexual perversity .

Art Garfunkel is the obsessive and cowardly academic, Alex Linden, who is unable to deal with his relationship with the free-spirited Milena Flaherty (Theresa Russell sporting some truly dreadful 'dos). 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 disjunctive flashbacks.

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

Art Garfunkel in one of his few film appearances (the other major one being in Mike Nichol's Carnal Knowledge, 1971) is surprisingly effective as the passively aggressive academic whilst both Theresa Russell and Harvey Keitel are on solid ground in their roles. Denholm Elliot is an odd choice for the husband but his role is relatively peripheral to the main event. Bad Timing is a classic of its time.




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