Vice and Versa: The Films of Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg

Bad Timing

Nicolas RoegUK122 minutes1980RColourEnglish

Aug 10
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    Set in Cold War Vienna, Bad Timing opens as Milena (Theresa Russell) is rushed to the hospital by her repressed psychiatrist lover Alex (Art Garfunkel) following an apparent drug overdose. A detective (Harvey Keitel) tries to piece together the circumstances that drove Milena to suicide, uncovering, with the rigour of a forensic autopsy, the toxic history of Milena and Alex's torrid affair, which became a disturbing labyrinth of sexual obsession and monstrous misogyny. Employing the director's signature, fragmented editing style at its most elliptical, Roeg's most controversial, unflinchingly misanthropic film is Vertigo meets Last Year at Marienbad — only exponentially more cynical than either and punctuated with profoundly upsetting revelations that appear designed to invite (if not outright incite) outraged reactions from its audiences. Even the film's own distributor, the straightlaced Rank Organisation, denounced Bad Timing as "a sick film made by sick people for sick people" — which makes one wonder what to think about the Toronto audiences who voted it the People's Choice Award at the 1980 Festival of Festivals, or the acclaimed artists (including Jim O'Rourke and The Cure's Robert Smith) who have paid homage to it in their own work.

    Print courtesy of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.

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