Bad Timing (1980)

by | Oct 18, 2005 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Bad Timing (1980)

Starring:  Art Garfunkel, Theresa Russell, Harvey Keitel, Denholm Elliott
Studio:  Criterion Collection
Video:  2.35:1 Widescreen Enhanced
Audio:  PCM Mono
Extras:  Theresa Russell Interview (19 min), Theatrical Trailer,
Deleted Scenes (16 scenes/17 min), Nicolas Roeg (director) and Jeremy
Thomas (producer) Interview (27 min), Gallery
Length:  122 minutes
Rating:  ***

Two Americans at a party in Vienna collide and begin a relationship
that will eventually explode.  Alex, a psychoanalyst, and free
spirit Milena let their dependence grow to the point of extreme
discomfort for the viewer.  When one pushes, the other pulls, and
it seems that they will never manage to become untwined.  Alex
wishes to control and contain his relationship and its course, while
Milena wants the life, the love, the now, and over- analyzing is not on
the menu.  Their obsession clouds both of them to the degree that
Milena’s verve turns to despair and self-loathing.  Alex’s
frustration at Milena’s unpredictable behavior and his jealousy at her
(supposed) associations with other men creates a stifling unrest that
turns him into a man willing to do anything to convince himself his
love is true and will last—even disregarding both their
well-being.  While doctors try to save Milena after a drug
overdose, an inspector suspects wrongdoing on the part of Alex. 
He won’t divulge the truth till the very end.  When the worst is
over, they are both displaced and again separate although not
necessarily better off.

Although the ending seems a bit unexpected, the movie can’t help but
leave the viewer emotionally tired.  Part of this has to do with
the editing of the film.  Rather than utilize a few flashbacks to
move back and forth in time, the director chose to interweave parallel
time periods and move between them seamlessly.  At first it might
throw the viewer, but really it just makes the story a little
disjointed.  During the Russell interview she opines that the
director wanted to create the feel of remembering events of the past—an
exercise that doesn’t necessarily follow chronological order.  The
strength of the film will be in viewer sympathy and recognition. 
For those who have never been in a relationship of this type—or known
of one—it will all seem unreal.  For the rest it is just a
reminder of how terrible it is/was.  That makes the viewing
uncomfortable—especially the ending scenes and knowing those times when
one felt so filled with emotion that they would do crazy things. 

As the film progresses, Garfunkel becomes more convincing in the
role.  Russell is clearly unrestrained and vulnerable and it works
well.  Her age is perfect and her innocence makes her performance
more effective—a nice contrast with the older, softer, mellow
Garfunkel.  In addition to some nice extras on the disc, there is
a 28-page booklet with an essay by film critic Richard Combs and a
revealing interview with Art Garfunkel from Rolling Stone
magazine.  The film is filled with symbolism and would make a good
study—the most obvious to me was when Alex and Milena are in Morocco
and scenes of the local performers are intercut with their
conversation.  At 31:40 in the film there is a severe color
shift.  The scene begins in cool colors and shifts to a natural,
warm color.  If this was not intentional and symbolic then it is
an error in the film.  Although I still believe Last Tango in
Paris to be a more powerful depiction of a dysfunctional relationship,
there is much to be seen in Bad Timing.  If the editing does not
bother the viewer, then the performances, soundtrack, and vivid
displays of emotion will win you over. [The transfer is par for the
course with Criterion – superb…Ed.]

-Brian Bloom

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