Welcome to our new film roundtable, entitled amazing/never again. Recently, my good friend and courtroom videographer kyle dropped an amazing film on me:
This movie meets all of my criteria (crime, 1970s, method acting, verite pretensions, implicit class critique) but almost jumped the shark of seventies thriller-style grit and gestalt all the way into overtruthfulness and, ergo, un-watchability. Which brings me to the topic of our conversation, one I hope will carry on for all of our sakes’ for as long as possible:
Which films have you seen that made you think, simultaneously, this was wonderful and i never wish to see it ever again?
In literature the works of Conrad best exemplify this weird kind of anti-transcendence for me, in which once-heroic victims of their own successful quests for truth wreck their own lives and the lives of others trying to outrun the horrors they were brave enough to confront and idiotic enough to mistake for being somehow nourishing. Some, if not all, of life’s big lessons seem to me to be dark. And some films are so good at pointing those out that I don’t need to see them more than once, artistry notwithstanding. Here’s my first submission:
Bad Timing is a film by Nicholas Roeg, the director of Performance, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Eureka, Don’t Look Now, Insignificance and a bunch of other art-damaged features that nonetheless somehow won studio funding and influenced the whole wide subsequent world of indie rockers and auteurs.
Art Garfunkel plays a petulant, Freudian psychoanalyst prancing around Vienna, who falls in lust, love, lust, hate, lust, love with, and loses himself in pursuit of Theresa Russel. Russel herself gives a very three-dimensional performance that gestures way beyond Madonna-Whore-Femme Fatale – Film Noire Gal, and somehow positions herself in my memory, at least, as less a victim or object of Garfunkel’s narcissism than the subject, the animating presence, the magnet of desire, that moves the film. Harvey Keitel is woefully miscast as – you guessed it – an Austrian homicide detective who prevails upon the stop-start, flashback/flash-forward structure of the film’s narration, and tries in a Hitchcockian way to apply deductive reasoning in the corridors of unreason.
Is this film a critique of Freudian narcissism or a Freudian parable of the collusion of sex and violence? Is this film anti-intellectual or the masochistic face-scrubbing of an irrevocable braniac? Is it about the poison enlivening the maddening, luxurious desiring that certain sexual subjects favor, or is it about the death drive that universally haunts all of our procreative functioning? I don’t know, and I won’t soon figure it out, because this deeply flawed film is also the most probing, brilliant and unwatchable slab of film I’ve ever had to deal with. I shan’t be dealing with it again, nossir.
Now what about you? How about a title, brief synopsis, and reflection upon whatever films’ you loved enough to know better than to mess with ’em again.