Bad Timing (1980)

bad timing


Bad Timing  (Drama, Mystery, Thriller,  1980) (18) D: Nicolas Roeg W: Yale Udoff (screenplay) P:  C: Art Garfunkel, Theresa Russell, Harvey Keitel, Denholm Elliott, Daniel Massey. 2h 9m. UK.

Synopsis : 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.

TAGLINE : A Terrifying Love Story

Three very secretive and explosive characters are instantly fascinating in this movie, starting out on the operating table we soon learn that a young woman Melina (Theresa Russell)is assumed to have attempted suicide, while her ever caring new lover Alex (Art Garfunkel) awaits outside trying to keep himself together. Cutting back into the past we learn more about the lovers and their volatile relationship, the drunkenness, jealousy and rapid start and spiralling decline. A brilliant detective Netusil (Harvey Keitel) has his suspicions about the case and turns into a vicious Colombo while trying to sort through the sordid affair.bad timing

There are fleeting moments of a real carefree romance between the taboo couple, a professor and student, from their random meeting and every encounter after is overcast by a nasty undercurrent getting uglier as the affair progresses. Things soon starts to get away from them somewhere in Austria in the late 70s.

It’s fascinating to see the cracks appearing and the characters change as you learn more of the personal histories, quite similar to getting into a relationship with this stormy and intense couple yourself. As you’re forced to look deep into the dark erotic study of this pair of unsympathetic lovers.

bad timing

There are regular flashbacks to the hospital where doctors are struggling to save the life of Melina. The urgent pace is captured by erratic camera movements and harsh sounds,  otherwise the camera work is incredibly clever following the smooth art Garfunkel playing the moody controlling sophisticated intellectual, lusting after the young drink and hope student who he later finds out is married but separated from the nerdy quiet and laidback husband Stefan (Denholm Elliott).

While being quite an arty film, it certainly captures the summer lovin of the 70s in an erotically claustrophobic method,  utilising mirrored shots and uncomfortable encounters,  it slowly swings from psychological thriller to explosive confirmation.

All the characters are quite charming in their own way, Melina,  a seductress pulls in the needy Garfunkel as he tries to remain young in the bed of his strident,  realising he can’t quite control or connect with the youth of the times his need for possession leads to strange behavior,  the intense police officer (Keitel) systematically plots together fragments of the case. As a viewer you can see the cogs turning in the desperate mind of Garfunkel s he studies his lovers drunken behaviour in common bars her joviality

bad timing suicide

The film is quite typical of director Nicolas Roeg, whose style is often disjointed, he goes the extra mile in this film during the “quadrant” sequence where the thoughts of the actors are heard before they speak. The obvious attraction to Teresa Russell is profound in this movie and the adoration of her comes from many angles, including from the director himself who married her two years after the film’s release.



Rating –  7/10

V: It captures a true summer of love in the 70’s the distorts it through drunkenness and abuse.. and in a similar vein to a Coen movie it is charming without really knowing why. The fragmented linage of the movie makes it an interesting whodunit, while being drawn into a web of dark sexuality and a feverish love story. It’s so beautifully set that each scene could be classed as a work of art.

R: War of the roses (1989), They were sisters (1945), Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
OST: Surprisingly I didn’t hear any Simon and Garfunkel
TIL : SPAR are popular in Vienna
DGI : Drink whenever one of characters does and it will keep you pretty happy.
L: Amour Fou, Musicians in Films, Suicide attempts in movies.
PD : Post Discussion – Coming soon.