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Bad Timing
Drama, Mystery
IMDB rating:
Nicolas Roeg
Denholm Elliott as Stefan Vognic
Robert Walker as Konrad
Lex van Delden as Young Doctor
Stefan Gryff as Policeman #2
Sevilla Delofski as Czech Receptionist
Ania Marson as Dr. Schneider
George Roubicek as Policeman #1
Gertan Klauber as Ambulance Man
Art Garfunkel as Alex Linden
Daniel Massey as Foppish Man
Eugene Lipinski as Hospital policeman
Theresa Russell as Milena Flaherty
Harvey Keitel as Inspector Netusil
William Hootkins as Col. Taylor
Storyline: The setting is Vienna. A young American woman is brought to a hospital after overdosing on pills, apparently in a suicide attempt. A police detective suspects foul play on the part of her lover, an American psychology professor. As doctors try to save her life, the detective interrogates the professor, and through flashbacks we see the events leading up to the woman's overdose; her stormy and intensely sexual relationship with the professor, her heavy drinking and numerous affairs, and her estrangement from her Czech husband. A darkly erotic study of several rather unsympathetic characters.
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One of the best movies ever
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.
Invitation To The Blues
"A cigarette," said Oscar Wilde, "is the perfect type of the perfect pleasure. It is exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied." Bad Timing's psychologist Alex Linden (Garfunkel) would no doubt describe his ex-lover, the brazen blonde Milena Flaherty (Russell) in exactly the same glowing terms.

It's also a charge critics have levelled at Bad Timing since 1980 (they usually leave the 'exquisite' bit off), citing its "pseudo-intellectualism", along with a subplot featuring Denholm Elliot that runs out of wool - though he does comically pop his head round thedoor at the end, in yet another case of 'bad timing'.

But back to the cigarettes for a moment: this film is absolutely choking, fair reeking in ciggie smoke; over 40 cigarettes have the life sucked out of them during the two-hour running time. "I wanted them all to smoke," said director Nic Roeg. "Nervousness." Smokers (who ought not to attempt a Withnail And I-style 'smoking game' lest they pass out and choke to death on their own nicotiney vomit) are advised to watch it from the comfort of the living room with an enormous ashtray to hand.

The cigarettes aren't just a handy visual shorthand for obsessive compulsion, which is the meat and potatoes of Bad Timing, they also form a crucial part of the evidence that will damn Alex. Having discovered a suicidal Milena (Russell) expiring from a booze and pills overdose, "a very advanced toxic condition," as the medics have it, why would he (apparently) pass the time puffing away, filling her ashtray with butts for over an hour before calling the ambulance round? It's the job of Inspector Netusil (Keitel), Alex's inquisitor-cum-conscience, to find out what really happened in that mysterious 60-minute window.

What Netusil intuits, and what is finally revealed to us - no lesser voyeurs than the characters herein - is predictable if unflinchingly graphic (you may never hear 'Bright Eyes' the same way again). The cause of the film's one-time censorship (Bad Timing's sickened producers Rank banned it from their own Odeon cinemas) was succinctly summed up by Big Audio Dynamite in their unlikely chart hit 'E = MC2', Mick Jones' homage to Roeg's films: "She's my flame too hot to hold, had to settle for her cold."

Set in Vienna, the birthplace of psychoanalysis, Bad Timing has been described as "Freudian cinema with a vengeance"; Hitchcock with knobs on. Alternately draggy, horrible, then almost unbearable to watch, it's permeated with the kind of decadence, anguished eroticism and self-analysis (cue much poring over the Lüscher Colour Test) associated with fin-de-siècle Vienna: the paintings of Freud's contemporaries Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele are featured heavily, as is Roeg's trademark non-linear, free-associative direction, less effective here than in Don't Look Now.

Depending on one's tolerance for shouty, duvet-chewing acting, the lead performances will either grimly fascinate (perhaps evoking happy memories of past doomed relationships), possibly amuse, or most likely irritate beyond belief, until you're seized by the desire to violently bang the heads of everyone involved together.

As Alex, Garfunkel is a modern monster. A neat freak and control freak-turned-voyeur (early in the film, he observes to his student class that "a guilt-ridden voyeur is usually a political conservative") his idea of a chat-up line is, "If we don't meet, there's always the possibility it could have been perfect." Or, on the lovers in Klimt's 'The Kiss', "They're happy... because they don't know each other well enough yet." It's a wonder he manages to get anyone in the sack, alive or half-dead.

For Alex, who desires to dominate with rationalism, Milena is simply another case study to be observed, enjoyed at leisure, tagged and ultimately cast back into the community on a long leash. He's only a masochist's idea of a bridge over troubled water. Fortunately for Alex, Milena is just such a masochist: neurotic, chaotic, living for the moment and prone to hurling beer bottles off the windowsill in a drunken fury while dressed as a kind of prostitute-clown.

A pivotal, and pretty representative exchange, sees a hopeful Alex nipping round, our blousey anti-heroine atypically fending him off as she's not in the mood, Alex storming out, Milena chasing after him and offering herself to him on the apartment stairs. Wasting no time, our shrink plunges straight in, then saunters off without a by-or-leave, while Milena trudges miserably back indoors. As a sympathetic Netusil, like the chairman at a male assertiveness meeting, despairs, "They're dangerous creatures, to themselves and others... they try to drag us into their confusion and chaos." Poor old Alex can only seethe unhappily at his shoes, as an unconscious Milena gets a bloody tracheotomy pipe plugged into her neck.

This is one of the bleakest films in Roeg's canon, which is saying something; ushered in to the grizzled strains of Tom Waits' 'Invitation To The Blues', and closing with Billie Holiday's 'The Same Old Story', via Daltrey and Townshend's 'Who Are You' - although Elvis Costello's 'Two Little Hitlers' would have worked just as well: "Two Little Hitlers will fight it out until/one little Hitler does the other one's will."
A Creepy, Riveting, Stunner!
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.
Here's to you, Mrs....I mean, Mr....
Anyone who could sing 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' with such spiritual clarity must have other talents and so it proved. Harvey Keitel is the actor with the heavier rep but he is often horribly stagey here. Art Garfunkel's performance however, remains authentic and true to life right till the end with an extraordinary level of concentration. He is brilliantly able to show simply thinking, often looking off screen in a state of enigmatic contemplation. It is one of the all time great screen performances and he sadly became an untapped resource in the business.

The constant smoking in the film was rumoured to be an early example of product placement ("thanks, I only smoke these") but the director subsequently denied this, claiming it was meant to dramatise the nervousness of the assortment of neurotic characters. I think it would have been more effective if we hadn't seen what ultimately transpired between the two leads in the film, leaving us to speculate as to whether a line had been crossed into moral horror. This unwillingness to trust the audience and go for the explicit in order to shock is one of the great failings of modern cinema. some commentator at the time described 'Bad Timing' as 'a sick film, made by sick people for sick audiences', but although it's often meretricious, the adults depicted are recognizably that of the real world. It is truthful in many respects. See it as a reminder of the days when British films could be half way decent.
Not lusty or sensual...just perplexing
British drama from director Nicolas Roeg, an enigmatic filmmaker who prides himself on turning out jigsaw-puzzle movies intended for specialty audiences. Those who aren't especially impressed with Roeg's technique may say that his films are constructed in the editing process, not before or during the film's production, and that this leaves his pictures feeling empty or choppy (but always artistically choppy!). The plot of "Bad Timing" has something to do with flirtatious, troubled Theresa Russell and her relationship with an odd young psychiatrist. Ugly to look at, aloof and tiresome; the film did get some sterling notices in 1980, but most curious viewers will be satisfied after an hour. *1/2 from ****
Always liked Theresa Russell...
so when I saw this on NetFlix I figured it may be a decent film, suspense set in Vienna.

She looks lovely, just prior to minor fame from "Black Widow" (starring with Debra Winger and Terry O'Quinn) where she was excellent as a gold digger and murderess.

The sites are intriguing, she is a party girl who leaves a former older lover to date Art Garfunkel, psychiatrist. Yes, its dated in that Garfunkel is not exactly leading man material, even in the early 80's I do not think he was, but anyway.

Basically as Milenia, Russell is enjoying her travels, and merely wants to party and have fun, sensual escapades and no strings. Garfunkel however begins to have contempt for her as she will not commit to being only with him.

Some cinematography in Tangier is beautiful and sensual. The overall story doesn't work, but you may find it watchable if you are a fan of Russell. There is a twist at the end as well. 6/10
Doesn't Date
I saw this originally sometime in the mid eighties and thought it was good. Now I appreciate it as a modern great. It doesn't date at all despite Garfunkle's hair and suits. Roeg tells a fairly simple story about complex emotions effecting complicated people and is well served by it's main protagonists and the actors he tasked to play them. The film is well paced and shown in non-linear interludes holding the viewer suspended, picking sides in a relationship and wondering about the consequences which are not fully revealed until the end. The style is typical of the director but that is no bad thing and if you want your cinema provocative and intelligently emotional this is a film you will want to see.
In spite of all the sex and nudity, a rather dull film...
"Bad Timing" is a film you'll either love or hate. Many of the reviews give it high praise and have very high ratings...but many also were very ambivalent about it. Place me in that second group. This is because in spite of all the nudity and sexuality, it sure left me very, very bored.

The film begins with some doctors working on an overdose patient, Milena (Theresa Russell). Then, throughout the rest of the film, you see a series of flashbacks about her relationship with an American psychology professor, Alex (Art Garfunkel). To call their relationship dysfunctional is clearly an understatement and it seemed very odd to me that a psychology professor would have a relationship with such a disturbed woman. She shows many of the symptoms of a Borderline Personality--with an inability to deal with boredom, compulsive use of sex and intoxicants, an inability to truly love or trust another (often adoring him and then hating him with little warning) and a lot of other behaviors that ultimately result in Alex rightfully calling her "a crazy bitch". Some might enjoy all these histrionics...but after a while it all became incredibly dull...even with all the nudity. Some of this is the choice of music--music that often exacerbated the slow pace and depressing mood of the film. The only time it really got interesting was late in the movie when you learned more about Alex and his actions during her suicide attempt...that WAS a bit of a surprise! Sadly, it took way too long to get there...and by then I was pretty much finished with the film.

Overall, a mildly interesting portrait of some very sick people...her for her many, many self-destructive behaviors and him for putting up with it and his behaviors late in the film. I couldn't see any genius in this one...just a film that left me waiting and hoping it would all end very soon.

By the way, although the film is set in Vienna, no one seemed to be Austrian! Not only were Alex and Milena Americans but so was the detective investigating (Harvey Keitel)....and this casting really didn't make any sense. Nor did it make much sense that the Doctor really didn't speak German very well despite living in Austria!
a great film
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.
The psychology of sexual obsession artistically exposed
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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