Saturday, February 15, 2014


Written, Music Score & Directed By: Mike Figgis 
Cinematography By: Declan Quinn 
Editor: John Smith 

 Cast: Wesley Snipes, Natassja Kinski, Robert Downey Jr., Ming-Na Wen, Kyle Maclachlan, Glenn Plummer, Amanda Donahoe, Thomas Haden Church, John Ratzenberger, Annabelle Gurwitch, Julian Sands, Ione Skye, Donovan Leitch Jr., Saffron Burrows

Los-Angeles commercials director Max visits his friend, artist Charlie, who was diagnosed with AIDS in New York. There he meets Karen, they are attracted to each other and after they meet later that day at the concert, they have a passionate night. Then he returns home to L.A. to his family and wife Mimi. A year later Max returns to New York again to visit Charlie who is now dying, and there he meets Karen again, who is married to Charlie's brother Vernon.

This seems to be a, what if erotic film.

The film is melodramatic more than anything. The way the film plays is like a small independent movie almost like a John Cassavettes inspired drama with style applied to it that makes it immediately disconnected. --The film never has a completed identity is it supposed to be romantic? Or erotic?

It feels like Wesley snipes stretching as an actor trying a role that no one would expect and one that challenges him.

While the central drama plays out it also seems to try to take on social issues.

The film seems to have an absorbent budget as it show plenty of pretty things that look expensive for no real reason except to show the upper class lifestyle of the characters that already promotes the film to more of a fantasy then anything an audience can really identify with. It ends up having expensive objects and production design in the middle of a midlife crisis drama. It feels almost like a more emotional version with a bigger budget of a film you would see on Cinemax late night in the 90's

The film is pretty to look at and tries to make itself feel deep. Yet it comes off pretentious and like a first world problem movie. That comes off as fully shallow. Which isn't surprising considering it's a script by Joe Eszterhas that feels tampered with and cut down as he is usually an audience pleaser with plenty of sex.

Joe Eszterhas wrote the original script, which was a series of loosely-connected sex scenes. When Mike Figgis took over the project and rewrote most of the script, Ezsterhas decided to take his name off the film.

In his autobiography Hollywood Animal, Eszterhas states that his completed script was 90% dialogue and that Michael De Luca, New Line's head of production, told him that the company's employees liked the script so much that they were going around the office reciting lines of dialogue.

It's strange that Natassja Kinski who was one of the most desirable women of the 80's while still sexy in this film is presented as just normal everyday good looking. While not as much a fantasy as she was. If the role was cast with a total sexpot sex symbol. The films had would have been stacked as to where we are supposed to put our sympathies and make it a more obvious aimed erotic and sexually exploitive film. Rather than more of a drama that is erotically themed or has it involved in the overall tapestry one of many themes.

Mike Figgis is a relented director who seems to aspire to make budgeted Hollywood dramas and subvert them to a more artistic experimental style. Who tries to be provocative and accepting of radical ideas and technology in storytelling. That can work and makes stories deeper, yet that style doesn't work for each film.

Surprised to learn he didn't make the erotic drama CENTER OF THE WORLD which seems to borrow his style and themes.

To me Mike Figgis is kind of a originator of that kind style of fearless filmmaking that eventually Steven Soderbergh came to use also more styled yet stripped down. Soderbergh does it better and is more successful.

This film was part of Robert Downey Jr's comeback while he was still under the influence of drugs allegedly. Like LESS THEN ZERO he uses it as part of his character. Yet it also serves as a portrait of what it seemed like the type of person he was at the time, but brings depth to the role. That is the only thing in the film that feels like it comes from a true place. Which isn't for us to understand, Only to watch it as documented and stripping away any reservations. To present self intermixed with the character matching his pain with the characters.

I also have to give Wesley snipes props as this is the most open and dramatic he has been in awhile. Playing more of a successful character not downtrodden for once. Who seems to be having his first real problems in his life of a not personal nature. I only wish the film matched his and Robert Downey jr's performance as they are both game and like two dueling jazz percussionists whose melody soon bleed into one another and create a mesmerizing score.

The sex scenes while shocking hardly feel erotic. They go from bask to some kind of graphic romance. Hardly entertaining. They feel rushed and plain at times, but when the affair sex happens tries to make it seem sensual and meaningful with requisite glimmering lighting.

The film tries to play down the interracial angle by having snipes be married to an Asian woman and makes the film seem more bohemian and having a more colorblind attempt at casting of all races. Which at times calls attention to itself. Also the humor by having Natassja Kinski's character be a rocket scientist.

While this film comes as sort of a cliche for Wesley snipes at the time since it seemed like every film he appeared in usually had a graphic sex scene in it. He didn't specifically star in erotic films. In films he starred in Though he wasn't always the participant involved as his movies were usually thrillers or action oriented. 

Grade: C-

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