Mike Figgis is the director who, in Leaving Las Vegas, took a fling between a suicidal drunk and a prostitute and made of it a great tragic love story.

In One Night Stand, a married man (Wesley Snipes) and a married woman (Nastassja Kinski) are thrown together, have an uncharacteristic fling, part, and go back to their regular lives. Needless to say, fate puts them together again but not for the usual purposes of retribution or social comedy. For all four major players - the couple and their prospective spouses - the experience ends fruitfully as something without which their lives would have been poorer, whatever pain there may have be along the way. Something too, which has had those oh-so politically correct viewers in the States shocked to the core.

This is not how they usually do things in Hollywood, the last bastion of old-fashioned sexual morality. The more familiar scenario was epitomised by Fatal Attraction. You want to ditch your responsibilities for one night's wild sex? Fine - but just expect to get a vengeful Glenn Close bursting out of your bathtub. That's the price you have to pay. Then again, the original ending of Fatal Attraction had to be altered after test screenings so that Close, as the woman scorned, could die more bloodily.

Everyone is guilty, everyone should suffer - especially the women. It is a confused morality.

Figgis, by contrast, wants to do away with the judgment aspect entirely. Is the difference solely down to personal style on the part of the film's creator? Or has there been a broader change in our own perceptions of marriage and morality?

When Figgis took over the original script by Joe Eszterhas, the "slam- bam- thank-you" man who wrote Showgirls and Basic Instinct, it was, as he describes it, a Sharon Stone-style story about a couple who have sex for a bet. "Sexual intercourse for about 55 pages in every conceivable way, shape or form. With jacuzzi, without jacuzzi, anal sex, oral sex, sex while you're phoning your family."

Under Figgis' pen it changed beyond recognition. Early on, he told Wesley Snipes that he wanted this to be a film in which everyone was sympathetic.

"Films have become simplistic. All too often they merely pass judgement - good or bad - and I wanted this to be non-judgmental. To give the complete texture of someone's life in crisis. I didn't want to take a moral position, other than to say I don't think marriage particularly works as a rock in our culture any more. Economics and religion and all sorts of things have changed." He finds the idea of pairing for life in the early twenties less realistic than ever, with the extended childhood we all indulge in today. His cast, on the whole, agree.

Her character, says Nastassja Kinski, is "comfortable" with her husband. When she meets Snipes, she realises comfortable is not enough. "Sometimes you don't know what you are missing until a certain person shows you who you are and who you can really be."

Snipes is even more positive: "Do I believe this could happen to anybody? Absolutely. I don't think it sounds cynical to say that I'm not one to believe you only fall in love once in you're life. If it happens, cool. But it doesn't have to be the rule. People say, 'If I get married, it's going to be for a lifetime'. Please - do you know how rich life is? How can you say that when you're 25? You act 35, and you may be emotionally seven. I don't buy it.

"Saying that gets me into a lot of trouble, as if I may be irresponsible or non-committal, but that's not it at all. Life has all these nuances. If we can appreciate the changes of the season in the plants, why can't we appreciate them in our own spirit?"

It's a convenient theory, especially coming from a man who's happy to let us see him as a good time guy.

But the all-action star of Passenger 57, Money Train and Demolition Man has roots in theatre and performance - the same background as Figgis. And a few years back in that unexpectedly varied career ("a Gary Oldman career") he starred in Spike Lee's Jungle Fever as the black architect whose affair with a white girl caused immense controversy.

In One Night Stand, race is an aspect of the plot no-one bothers to mention, on screen, or in interview, practically. Figgis began writing the film for "pink people", but changed to Snipes (and to Asian American actress Ming-Na Wen as his wife) quite painlessly. Perhaps there has been a shift of opinion in six years. Perhaps, again, it's just the difference between Figgis and Lee. But perhaps it is a backhanded tribute to our all-absorbing interest in that other, vividly contemporary, aspect of the One Night Stand story...

'One Night Stand' opens on November 28. It closes the London Film Festival on November 23.

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