TAKING A LEAF OUT OF FIGGIS'S BOOK: Film

With his fuzzy head of curls and droopy Sixties tash, pioneering actor, jazz musician and film director, Mike Figgis, doesn't resemble your typical Renaissance man, or, for that matter, a power-broking player in the movie business. Yet this unorthodox Geordie has the kind of rocket- fuelled energy and charisma to succeed at three careers when most of us can only scratch a living from one.

Of these three incarnations, Figgis is best known for his movies, and this weekend's retrospective at the National Film Theatre offers a fine opportunity to enjoy the creative breadth of a director who, over the course of the last 10 years, has worked with everyone from Sting to Hitchcock's favourite icy blonde, Kim Novak.

Illustrating a penchant for psychological thrillers, like Stormy Monday (his directorial debut) and the powerful Internal Affairs (with Richard Gere giving his best performance to date as a slickly corrupt cop), Figgis's portfolio also shows him to be a film-maker happy to tackle less obviously engaging subjects. This weekend sees, for example, a rare screening of Liebenstraum, Figgis's idiosyncratic blend of black comedy and ghost story, alongside Mr Jones, conceived as a love story between a therapist and her manic depressive patient. This is, after all, the director who once told an inter-viewer that his ideal movie would be one that made audiences sympathetic towards Hitler.

Most recently, this sense of adventure resulted in Leaving Las Vegas, a low-budget melodrama, shot on Super 18 that soaked up Academy Awards as quickly as its alcoholic hero (an Oscar-winning Nicolas Cage) soaked up the booze. Sadly not all of Figgis's concepts have not always been so successfully realised. Particularly in Hollywood, which sucked Figgis up from England after Stormy Monday, only to spit him out after Mr Jones. Battling hard to retain the essential darkness of his story, Figgis watched despairingly as the studio relentlessly sanitised the film's insanity with multiple re-writes and edits. Lacking the rights to the final cut, his only redress was to disown the bland picture that was finally released.

Unsurprisingly, Figgis's last couple of films have been made outside Hollywood with the director maintaining full editorial control. But his confidence and natural buoyancy is such that Figgis hasn't so much rejected, as rewritten his relationship to Tinsel Town. One Night Stand, his next movie (about a husband's infidelities) is scripted by none other than Jagged Edge sleazemeister, Joe Eszterhas.

The retrospective runs today and Sunday and the director will be in conversation on Sunday at 8.45pm. To book call the NFT on 0171-928 3232

Liese Spencer

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