The first movie that Nicolas Roeg and Theresa Russell made together, Bad Timing (1980), was denounced by its distributor, the Rank Organisation, as a “sick film made by sick people for sick people,” which may sound to some like a ringing endorsement rather than a condemnation. Russell was twenty-two years old when she made it, and she was ambitious and very much her own person. She married Roeg, who was thirty years her senior, in 1982 and made four more features with him, plus a short for the movie Aria (1987), before they divorced sometime in the late 1990s.
Roeg was conducting his last interviews before his death in 2018, journalists noted
that a David Hockney portrait of Russell was prominently displayed in his home
along with many other framed photos of her. This photo collage was commissioned
by Roeg for Insignificance (1985),
where Russell played a version of Marilyn Monroe. She is seen splayed out nude
on pink satin sheets from many angles in the Cubist-style Hockney was favoring
at that point, with her tongue lasciviously poking around her open mouth and
her left profile seeming to merge with her full face, as if she is giving
herself a kiss. This major Hockney piece expresses the deepest intent of the
films that Russell and Roeg made together, which present the women the actress
played from many angles simultaneously.
character in Bad Timing, Milena
Flaherty, is married to Stefan Vognic (Denholm Elliott), a man who is thirty
years older than her, but the main drama here is the obsessive affair between
Milena and the psychiatrist and teacher Alex Linden (Art Garfunkel), who is
nearly twenty years her senior. Russell herself had been dealing with older men
from the time she dropped out of high school at age sixteen and enrolled to
study at the Lee Strasberg Institute in Los Angeles. She was introduced to the
producer Sam Spiegel, who aggressively pursued her in vain and helped get her
into her first movie, Elia Kazan’s The
Last Tycoon (1976), where she played Robert Mitchum’s daughter. Russell
then played Dustin Hoffman’s girlfriend in the very bleak Straight Time (1978), where her catlike, blue-gray eyes stared out
at us from a default-sullen face that held touchingly limited hopes.
“Russell is very direct. Everything about the way she behaves says, ‘This is for real, this isn’t just pretend.’ ”
Keaton at the Crossroads: Buster’s Last Silent Comedy, Spite Marriage
Despite the studio system’s stifling conditions, Buster Keaton’s follow-up to The Cameraman remains a testament to the funnyman’s singular style.
The Same Old Song: A Guide to Neonoir
Since its classic-Hollywood heyday, noir has remained a vibrant mode in both studio and independent filmmaking, taking on nostalgic resonances in the highly referential work of Robert Altman, Arthur Penn, Brian De Palma, and the Coen brothers.
Carole Lombard’s Divine Lunacy
A raucous, fast-talking diva, the actor had a remarkable ability to convey both glamour and silliness, a gift that made her the queen of screwball comedy before her untimely death in 1942.
You have no items in your shopping cart