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Bad Timing (The Criterion Collection)

3.8 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Amid the decaying elegance of cold-war Vienna, psychoanalyst Dr. Alex Linden (Art Garfunkel) becomes mired in an erotically charged affair with the elusive Milena Flaherty (Theresa Russell). When their all consuming passion takes a life-threatening turn, Inspector Netusil (Harvey Keitel) is assigned to piece together the sordid details. Acclaimed for its innovative editing, raw performances, and stirring musical score, featuring Tom Waits, the Who, and Billie Holiday, Nicolas Roeg’s Bad Timing is a masterful, deeply disturbing foray into the dark world of sexual obsession.


A choppy, unsettling meditation on sexual obsession, Nicholas Roeg's Bad Timing stars Theresa Russell and Art Garfunkel as Milena and Alex, two lovers pursuing a torrid relationship in late-1970s Vienna. The movie opens with Milena being rushed to the hospital for an apparent suicide attempt. Alex, a psychology professor, proceeds to play it cool as he's questioned by Inspector Netusil (Harvey Keitel). As Milena fights for her life on the operating table, the story of how she and Alex came together is revealed in startlingly raw passages of lust and bursts of raw emotion. Roeg throws the narrative out of joint with flashbacks and jarring editing, skillfully turning this story of a love affair into a mystery. The scene in which Milena aggressively seduces Alex on a stairwell is a bravura, gutsy performance from Russell. What's even more startling is the odd casting of this film. After all, that is the bare backside of the guy who most famously provided harmonies on "Scarborough Fair." Roeg, clearly enamored with casting musicians in lead roles (David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth and Mick Jagger in Performance) also approaches the editing of the film as though it were music, with abrupt, discordant cuts and strange juxtapositions. The film--of a tradition of sexually frank films like Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris--is yet another reminder of how deeply filmmakers of the '70s were willing to mine human emotions, especially unpleasant ones. -- Ryan Boudinot

Special Features

  • New interview with Roeg and producer Jeremy Thomas
  • New interview with Theresa Russell
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Gallery of behind-the-scenes production photos and original posters
  • A new essay by film historian Richard Combs and a reprinted interview with Art Garfunkel, from 1980

Product Details

  • Actors: Art Garfunkel, Theresa Russell, Harvey Keitel, Denholm Elliott, Daniel Massey
  • Directors: Nicolas Roeg
  • Writers: Yale Udoff
  • Producers: Jeremy Thomas, Tim Van Rellim
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: September 27, 2005
  • Run Time: 123 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005JMVQ
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #61,861 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Bad Timing (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Trevor Willsmer TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 3, 2005
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Seen a quarter of a century on, 'Bad Timing' stands out as one of Nicolas Roeg's most satisfying and complex films and yet it can be one of his hardest to discuss. It's a film I feel a little guilty about writing so little about, but even on a second viewing it's still rather overwhelming. It's interesting how it manages to be so genuinely multi-layered, more like a novel than a film - the way it mixes voyeurism, spying and emotional, psychological and legal investigation (with Keitel's investigation of the suicide scene placing him firmly in scenes as an unseen voyeur through Terry Rawlings typically brilliant editing) is remarkable enough, but the film manages to do so much more besides. And the performances are incredibly brave - how many leading men can you think of who would effectively (and quite deliberately effeminately) play the woman's role during the lovers' initial meeting? Russell in particular shows an astonishing range in what should be an impossible part, making her inability to find decent roles these days even more disappointing.

True it falls apart in the last couple of reels when the performances don't quite ring true, but it's still the last great film Nic Roeg made before settling into prolific mediocrity. It's as a brilliantly edited post-mortem into a mutually destructive relationship rather than a police mystery that it really enthralls, even when it doesn't entirely work. Much more impressive than I remembered, it's not a feelgood movie - if anything it's the date movie from hell - but it is a remarkably ambitious and accomplished one.

So why is the film so little-known and perhaps even less-seen? Well, that seems to be down to some bad luck and bad timing of its own.
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Format: DVD
Nicolas Roeg fell in love with and married Theresa Russell, his leading lady in 1980's the little known BAD TIMING (Criterion) and it is easy to see why. Russell is a sexualized force of nature as the troubled Milena.

Set mostly in cold war Vienna, Milena interacts with the various men in her life. But it is Milena herself that is central to all that happens because she is not only beautiful but also sadly flawed. Is it a borderline personality disorder, a damaged childhood, or a bi-polar illness? Or is she just a self-centered, spoiled brat? Whatever, the problem, it makes for a fascinating, character-driven story as Milena's life impacts a psychoanalyst (Art Garfunkle), a detective (Harvey Keitel) and her older husband.

As expected from Roeg, a highly regarded cinematographer, the digital transfer of the carefully composed film is stunning. But what created the biggest stir when it was initially released was the raw sexuality and eyebrow raising body-part specific nudity. (Think THE scene with Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct.)

The great score includes Billie Holliday, The Who and Tom Waits among others.

This is not exactly a date movie or a feel good flick, but it is a fascinating and disturbingly honest look at sexual obsession and a not uncommon type of mental illness.

It is worth finding and seeing with someone with whom you are planning to break up. This one raises serious questions that we usually prefer to not talk about.
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Format: DVD
Innovative use of camera and flash-back sequences that might very well have inspired Tarentino distinguish this early 1980s classic, with memorable performances, even from Theresa Russell, and an understated script that reveals more through what is not said. The use of Klimt art work and the overall backdrop of the Vienna of Freud and Wittgenstein underscore the wistfulness of a once-grand intellectual centre in the same slow decay as the relationship depicted between Russell and Garfunkel. Denholm Eliott and Harvey Keitel give brilliantly understated supporting perfomances.
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We should get one thing out of the way first: Nicholas Roeg's films are not everybody. Moving on, this is possibly Roeg's best work and essential viewing for any movie lover or fan of great acting. Released in 1980, this movie was not at all well recieved. Rank, the film's distributor stalled on the film's release, there was the controversey over an X rating and critics and viewers, at the time, obviously didn't know what to make of it. Twenty five years later with so many changes in what is accepted in movies today, it might be seen as lighter fare....well, maybe.

Nicholas Roeg could easily be passed off as a "shock director", but he is a unique talent who makes movies that have so many layers of meaning that it takes more than one viewing, maybe even two to understand what his movies are really about. The setting is cold war Vienna. Alex, a famous psychiatrist meets Meleana, an artistic,talented beauty without an occupation. Their attraction is immediate, their story unfolds through a series of flashbacks. Roeg makes it clear from the very beginning that the story does not have a happy ending. It is up to the audience to stay and find out why.

Alex appears to be quite normal from the beginning. He has the high paying job, the renowned reputaion, a glamouras life of high society friends. Everything about Alex symbolizes control and normalcy. Later in the film, though, we find that this isn't so. Alex is may appear like this on the surface, but he is truly an insecure man.

Which might be why he is so intrigued of Meleana from the very beginning. Meleana represents everything that Alex is not and can never be. Leaning in a hallway at a party, she stops him dead in his tracks by blocking him with her leg.
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