One Night Stand (18) Directed by Mike Figgis
Mike Figgis himself turns up near the start of his new film, as a hotel clerk. In real life, Figgis wears a tornado of curls, and though they are hidden beneath a discreet quiff in the film, you would swear that you could feel them bursting through that wig. That's something like the feeling that the whole picture can give you. It's hushed and underplayed, but it has these wonderful, funky kinks that are revealed in irreverent little spurts.

Figgis is an accomplished musician, and One Night Stand, like his last film, Leaving Las Vegas, is driven by subtle musical rhythms rather than narrative. It's not that he cuts his scenes to the score (which he wrote). More than that, the two elements appear to have been written simultaneously, as if Figgis scribbled out the words with his left hand the music with his right.

The story is simple and unexceptional. Max (Wesley Snipes) has a brief affair with a stranger, Karen (Nastassja Kinski), in a New York hotel, before returning to his wife, Mimi (Ming-Na Wen) in Los Angeles, and his daily routine. A year on, visiting his best friend Charlie (Robert Downey Junior), who is dying of Aids, Max sees Karen again and the film seems to hang in mid-air for a moment, as though the camera itself were reeling from the shock of this second chance meeting.

Figgis makes his actors walk tightropes. Wesley Snipes has been wonderful before, in Sugar Hill and White Men Can't Jump, though he's never been able to luxuriate in a performance the way he does here. Figgis teases out his vulnerability, and in a scene where he sours the atmosphere at a dinner party, he's like an unexploded bomb of pure neurosis.

Perhaps it is the plot's close proximity to soap opera that makes the picture seem so daring - you're grateful as much for what it isn't as for what it is. I don't think Figgis could do anything by the book if he wanted to. The most breathtaking scene comes when Max and Karen spend the night together, and Figgis keeps fading in and out discreetly, occasionally revealing just an abstract mess of fingers and hair and flesh, making it seem like something dreamed or half remembered. It's the kind of sore passion that you once expected from Bertolucci; a passion that can make your hair curl until you look like Mike Figgis.

Comments