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Random thoughts about sound and vision.

Bad Timing

I've recently been filling in some of the gaps in my film knowledge - I've seen a lot of movies, just not on an Ebert or Maltin level. One film I've been wanting to see for a long time was  Bad Timing - Nicolas Roeg's notorious 1980 study of intense sexual attraction and is consequences. After being unavailable for a long time, the film finally appeared on DVD through the US' Criterion Collection and that's how I finally managed to catch up with it. 

In the movie, Art Garfunkel plays a college professor who falls heavily for the free-spirited Theresa Russell, their obsessive relationship being viewed through a fractured timescale. When a drug-overdosed Russell is admitted to hospital, detective Harvey Keitel doesn't believe Garfunkel's version of events and starts investigating the hours leading up to the emergency. He soon discovers that there were no boundaries to Garfunkel's fascination with Russell and  

To say Bad Timing had a chequered history is an understatement. Director Roeg was hot off The Man Who Fell To Earth and had recently been dropped from the Flash Gordon movie that was then in the works - that one's right up there with Ridley Scott's Dune as a grievously missed opportunity. The UK's Rank Organisation stepped in and financed his next project Illusions - which was later renamed Bad Timing. However, after seeing the completed movie, a horrified Rank promptly wiped their famous "man with gong" logo off the credits and buried it in small-scale distribution. Licensing the film's soundtrack also caused problems when it was eventually planned to be put out on home video - the music of The Who, Keith Jarrett and Tom Waits all feature in the film and are intrinsic to it - and so the film disappeared off the radar.

As with several of Roeg's film's, Bad Timing is a chilly, distanced work, populated with generally unsympathetic characters - traits that share a lot with the movies of Stanley Kubrick. However, Nic Roeg is a master craftsman and the film is beautifully structured and photographed, taking in the sights of Vienna, Morocco and New York along the way. The acting is of a high standard - Garfunkel particularly acquits himself well, although he was in good hands with Roeg, who had previously coaxed strong performances from musicians such as  Mick Jagger in Performance and David Bowie in The Man Who Fell To Earth. It's an intelligent rather than emotional film - despite the passion shown on screen, it doesn't engage you as much as it should and you end up admiring Bad Timing, rather than loving it. It would make an interesting double-bill with Roman Polanski's Bitter Moon (1992), with which it shares a lot of themes.

I'd recommend buying the Criterion version, as it has 2005 interviews with Nic Roeg, Theresa Russell and producer Jeremy Thomas. They talk at length about the background and making of  the project, which helps as there is no commentary on the film itself. There's a handful of deleted scenes and a gallery of photographs - plus the original trailer.  The film itself is in the original 2:35:1 ratio and is in very good condition. You can find it here at Amazon.com