Monday, 19 January 2015

Bad Timing (1980)

Along with dear old Ken Russell, director Nicolas Roeg helped change the face of British cinema in the 1970s, showing the world that we could make flamboyant, weird, passionate movies just as stylishly as anyone (and often more so). Blu-ray boxsets of the complete uncut works of both of these directors (with loads of extras) should be widely available, and the fact that they aren’t is a huge shame. We can be grateful for the films that are available, though, and one that’s due out very shortly is Network’s new Blu-ray release of Roeg’s BAD TIMING.

Essentially a document of a doomed relationship between two people who should never have met, should never have got together, and should never have allowed themselves to become so obsessed with one another, BAD TIMING tells the story of uptight lecturer Art Garfunkel who meets wild child Teresa Russell. She leaves her Czech Republic husband (Denholm Elliott looking suitably world weary) and the two embark on a passionate rollercoaster of a relationship where he wants to be controlling and she doesn’t want to be tied down, where he wants marriage and she wants lovers, and where he doesn’t trust her and she doesn’t really want him to.

I’m not going to tell you how it ends but the film does that for you pretty much at the beginning, with Russell being rushed to hospital, apparently the victim of a suicide attempt. In fact, in the first few minutes we get to see both the beginning and the end of the story and scenes in between as well. The rest of the film’s fractured narrative fills in the gaps. Harvey Keitel, in a deceptively minor role as the detective investigating Russell’s apparent suicide attempt at the beginning, gets possibly the most important dialogue in the film when, at the climax, he tries to explain to Garfunkel why Russell was attracted to him in the first place.

BAD TIMING was produced by the Rank Organisation and pretty much dumped when the company realised what it had on its hands. “A sick film made by sick minds for sick people,” was one of the reviews at the time. How can one possibly resist a film with such subject matter? It certainly is a grim tale, and at many points I actually found it odd to be watching a movie with this kind of plot that didn’t need subtitles, as such miserablist contemplative art house fare might be more the province of Robbe-Grillet in a very bad mood, or Herzog in a relatively sane one. Its atmosphere of screwed-up obsessive relationships also reminded me of Paul Schrader’s version of Ian McEwan’s THE COMFORT OF STRANGERS. 
Network’s Blu-ray offers us BAD TIMING in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Extras include a ten minute interview with producer Jeremy Thomas, deleted scenes, trailers and an image gallery. There’s also a pdf of promotional material on the disc.
BAD TIMING is a remarkable film that stays with you after viewing, and it deserves to be up there with DON’T LOOK NOW and THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH as one of the best examples of the work of a remarkable British director.

Nicolas Roeg's BAD TIMING is being released on Region B Blu-ray by Network on 26th January 2015

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