Bad Timing is a 1980 British psychological drama film directed by Nicolas Roeg and starring Art Garfunkel, Theresa Russell, Harvey Keitel and Denholm Elliott. The plot focuses on an American woman and a psychology professor living in Vienna, and, largely told through nonlinear flashbacks, examines the details of their turbulent relationship as uncovered by a detective investigating her apparent suicide attempt.
British quad poster
|Directed by||Nicolas Roeg|
|Produced by||Jeremy Thomas|
|Written by||Yale Udoff|
|Music by||Richard Hartley|
|Cinematography||Anthony B. Richmond|
|Edited by||Tony Lawson|
|Distributed by||Rank Film Distributors (UK)|
|122 minutes (uncut restored version)|
The film was controversial upon its release, being branded "a sick film made by sick people for sick people" by its own distributor, the Rank Organisation, and was given an X rating in the United States. The film was also shown under the title Bad Timing: A Sensual Obsession before being shelved by the distributor. It went unreleased on home video in the United States until 2005 when The Criterion Collection released their DVD edition.
In Cold War Vienna, Milena (Russell), a young American woman in her twenties, is rushed to the emergency room after apparently overdosing. With her is Alex Linden (Garfunkel), an American psychiatrist who lives in the city as a teacher. Through fragmented flashbacks, the narrative depicts the story of their romance, which ultimately amounts to an unhealthy obsession on the part of Alex.
Through these developments, Milena is revealed to suffer from depression and is married to a much older man, Stefan (Elliott), whom she occasionally crosses the border to see during the course of her affair with Alex. Though Alex initially enjoys her free-spirited ways, he becomes embittered by her lifestyle, which includes impulsive promiscuity and heavy drinking. Through spying on Milena, Alex becomes emotionally strained, and eventually tries to control her – leading to horrifying results, due in large part to very bad timing.
Throughout, at the hospital where doctors and nurses fight to save Milena's life, an investigator, Netusil (Keitel), comes to realise that there may be more to her case than a simple suicide attempt. When he discovers the truth, he tries to corner Alex into a confession.
Finally the film reveals that Alex raped her when she was unconscious. Later, just before Alex can confess, Stefan arrives and reveals that Milena has survived and is out of danger. Alex returns to America where, some time later, he sees Milena getting out of a taxi. He shouts to her but she ignores him.
- Art Garfunkel as Alex Linden
- Theresa Russell as Milena Flaherty
- Harvey Keitel as Inspector Netusil
- Denholm Elliott as Stefan Vognic
- Daniel Massey as Foppish Man
- Dana Gillespie as Amy Miller
- William Hootkins as Colonel Taylor
- Eugene Lipinski as Hospital Policeman
- George Roubicek as Policeman #1
- Stefan Gryff as Policeman #2
- Sevilla Delofski as Czech Receptionist
- Robert Walker as Konrad
- Gertan Klauber as Ambulance Man
- Ania Marson as Dr Schneider
- Lex van Delden as Young Doctor
The film was one of the series of movies greenlit by Tony Williams at the Rank Organisation, who were increasing their production output. Rank made eight films over two years, being mostly conservative choices such as the remake of The Thirty-Nine Steps. Bad Timing was the most unusual of the slate of films. While Art Garfunkel was making the film, his girlfriend, Laurie Bird, committed suicide in New York.
The film was later shown at the Toronto International Film Festival on 12 September 1980, and was screened in New York City on 22 September, with a theatrical release in the United States on 25 October 1980.
The film received mixed reviews. Some found it brilliant; others, tasteless. At the UK premiere, film critic David Robinson in The Times praised Nicolas Roeg as "a director of panache and individuality, and with an ability to fascinate and compel the attention", and wrote about the unusual editing and the carefully staged scenes: "In other hands all this might only be deception and distraction, but through these fragmented elements Roeg and his ingenious writer Yale Udoff creates a perfectly coherent and intriguing central narrative and relationship." Its UK distributor, Rank, were appalled by what they saw; one executive called it "a sick film made by sick people for sick people". In response, they removed the Rank logo from all UK prints of the film. John Coleman in the New Statesman gave it a very bad review: "[it has] an overall style which plays merry hell with chronology".
The film's title was used by musician Jim O'Rourke for his album Bad Timing, the first in a trilogy of albums which O'Rourke named after films Nicolas Roeg had made during the nineteen-eighties – the other two being Eureka (taken from Eureka) and Insignificance (taken from Insignificance). The film was also a partial inspiration for The Glove's 1983 album Blue Sunshine, a side project of The Cure's Robert Smith and Siouxsie and the Banshees' Steven Severin. According to Smith, the song "Piggy in the Mirror" from The Cure's 1984 album The Top was also inspired by the film.
The film received only a limited release in the US, showing for a brief period in theaters. Due to the notoriety and poor box office results, the film was not initially released on home video in the United States. However, the television rights were acquired by the Los Angeles-based pay cable network "Z Channel" and aired in heavy rotation, allowing the film to obtain cult status in the 1980s. Fragments of the film were featured on "Z Channel: Magnificent Obsession" documentary, which for years was the only way for Americans to see the film.
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- The Times, 6 March 1980; pg. 13: Berlin's good British films Linked 2016-08-24
- Ebert, Roger (25 October 1980). "Bad Timing". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 9 November 2013.
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- "Bad Timing". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 16 November 2018.
- Ratliff, Ben (2 September 2009). "Once Insider, Now Outsider, and Liking It". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
- "Films – The Criterion Collection". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 10 December 2012.
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- Sinyard, Neil (1991) The Films of Nicolas Roeg. London: Charles Letts; pp. 68–79