Sunday, September 02, 2012

Man of Cinema’s One Night Stand

Would Pierre Rissient have championed this film if someone else directed it?  The celebrated film critic, publicist, distributor, and exhibitor was already the special guest at this year’s San Francisco International Film Festival and the upcoming 2012 New York Film Festival will pay tribute to his curatorial eye with a special sidebar of films he programmed at the Cinema Mac Mahon.  On rare occasions, the “Man of Cinema” has stepped behind the camera, with mixed (if politely received) results.  At least one such foray can be reevaluated in light of his year of festival fêtes, since Rissient’s One Night Stand (a.k.a. Alibis) was relatively recently released on DVD by Pathfinder Entertainment.

Paul Rand is not a happy person.  After his ex-wife Sonya attempts suicide, he comes to Hong Kong out of a vague sense of obligation, but it is unclear what he expects to accomplish.  Although a translator by trade, French is Rand’s language not Chinese, so he will be dependent of members of the comatose Sonya’s circle during his visit.  This will include the career driven Sandy Lun, who thinks very little of him and Anya, who always carried a torch for the American during her time in the States.  The one thing not specifically on the agenda is getting to know his daughter Amanda, which is probably just as well for her.

Rand appears to have translated a bit too much Baudelaire.  He has an annoying habit of mixing lyric poetry quotations with highly vulgar comments.  The exoticism of HK is not lost on him, but he kicks off his visit by sexually humiliating a middle-aged French woman also staying in his hotel.  (One has to wonder just what French actress might have inspired this rather nasty scene.)  In fact, Rissient, or his co-writers Kenneth White and Alfred Eibel, exhibit an unhealthy fixation on non-traditional intercourse in several scenes.

Indeed, parallels with Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris (from five years earlier) can be seen throughout Stand.  Shrewdly though, Rissient never lets the Hong Kong backdrop go to waste in the less claustrophobic later film.  He also uses more compelling foils for Rand than the problematically submissive Maria Schneider opposite Brando.  None other than Betty Ting Pei, in whose apartment Bruce Lee breathed his last terrestrial breath, appears as Anya, a sexually confident and altogether modern woman.  However, Rand more or less meets his match in Ms. Lun, sensitively portrayed by Mei Fang.  In contrast, the accomplished Marie Däems (who co-starred with Yul Brynner in The Journey) really gets the shaft as the poorly treated “Collette the Countessa.”

In the lead, Richard Jordan might be no Brando as Rand, but that is not all bad.  While his character is rather erratic, Jordan holds onto his center (self-loathing) and guts it out.  Rounding out the men, Kenneth Tsang (billed as Tsang Kong) brings a welcome dose of roguish verve to the film as Arthur, Rand’s newfound friend with dubious ethics but plenty of connections.

Tonally, Stand is a rather odd film.  It feels like an art-cinema auteur remade a naughty Emmanuelle movie with all the sex scenes minimized, but with cruder dialogue.  While there are some memorable performances from the Hong Kong cast, it suggests the one-time assistant director on Breathless found his proper role in cinema outside the director’s chair. Still, just the combination of Rissient and Shaw Brothers alumnus Betty Ting Pei makes One Night Stand forever noteworthy.  For the curious, it is now available at all online retailers from Pathfinder Entertainment.