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At turns both mesmerizing and frustrating, Mike Figgis's 1999 experimental feature interweaves an audacious dramatization of the Adam and Eve myth with autobiographical vignettes from the director's life. In Figgis's golden rendering of the Genesis tale, the first humans are a black man (Femi Ogumbanjo) and a white woman (Hanne Klintoe), who emerge one day, fully formed, from a lake, and regard each other with playful wonder. They discover, like children, their anatomical differences, and explore the surrounding green paradise until coming upon the tree of knowledge. From this they eat and almost instantly reevaluate one another with a steely lust. Thus their, and our, fabled fall from grace ends in the mire of sexual possession and walled-off feeling, a tragedy that Figgis (Leaving Las Vegas) uses as a touchstone for the contemporary story of a filmmaker named Nic (Julian Sands). Nic's own youthful experiences with various kinds of formative humiliation, including finding his teenage girlfriend in bed with his best friend, are presented as flashbacks meant to resonate with his marital unhappiness today. Less clear are other moments out of time that don't particularly connect with Figgis's major theme, especially an odd development in which twin sisters (both played by Saffron Burrows), each unaware of the other's existence, have a fleeting, worlds-are-colliding encounter at an airport. Figgis also reaches into a grab bag of Nic's other old sorrows, things that don't uniquely inform or enhance the film's point, and muddies things up a bit. But the sheer hubris of marrying a myth with a memoir carries the day here, and Figgis leaps the hurdle of potential self-parody with a certain courage. --Tom Keogh
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