A lot can happen in one night: epic romances are born, lives are lost, hidden universes unfold, life-changing truths are revealed. The best one-night-only films have an intensity, a rapid fire unfolding, and an immediacy that draws you into the here-and-now in a way few other films can. By sunrise, we usually find our characters and their situations forever altered.
Here are a few of The Cinefamily’s classic faves...
A working stiff (Griffin Dunne) meets a beautiful girl (Patricia Arquette) in a coffee shop and follows her to Soho, where he enters a nightmare of bizarre lower Manhattan scenarios and coincidences centered on him, replete with sadomasochistic artists, thieves, dominatrixes and neighborhood do-gooders, all of whom want his head. Scorsese's first film with Fassbinder's cinematographer Michael Ballhaus is a gorgeous and tricky exercise in style and plot. (Dir. Martin Scorcese, 1985)
EYES WIDE SHUT
As the sun sets in Eyes Wide Shut, mysterious avenues open. Tom Cruise tumbles out of his wife’s bed and into a dizzying spiral of secret romantic indiscretions. By sunrise he’s barely escaped ritual execution at the hands of an elite sex cult, learning the hard way that it’s dangerous to walk the midnight streets with your head in the gutter. (Dir. Stanley Kubrick, 1999)
CITY OF WOMEN / "La città delle donne"
Fellini takes us on a sordid, surreal rollercoaster ride through gender enlightenment, a raucous, dreamscape you will not soon forget. A middle-aged and desperate Marcello Mastroianni shines in this film packed with empowered women, hallucinations, dick kicking competitions, and bursting-at-the-seams brothels all in the course of one wild night. (Dir. Federico Fellini, 1981)
Mike Leigh’s frightening and paranoid dark night of the soul. Johnny, played by David Thewlis, walks through the seedy east London night, where he encounters individuals, who, like himself, are marginalized and forgotten – an old girlfriend, street urchins, tormented lovers, a lonely security guard, and other lost souls provide audience for his nihilistic rants, culminating in a vicious beating that forges in him a deeply pessimistic and increasingly alienated worldview as night turns to day. A cathartic illumination of the demons of society’s forgotten and marginalized. (Dir. Mike Leigh, 1993)
THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL
A Hammer Films horror classic, Vincent Price is an odd and suspicious millionaire who invites five people to a party at his rented (and reputedly haunted) house (in Los Feliz!), and offers $10,000 to anyone who can remain in the house for an entire night. Terrifying noises, skeletons, and murderous ghosts abound as the five are put to the test in a struggle for their sanity and their lives. Spooky, atmospheric, and preposterously campy, its badness has aged like a fine bloody wine. (Dir. William Castle, 1959)
A lyrical flirtation with human weakness, through the eyes of a whimsical farce. Hark Tsui drags us along a vivacious fantasy, where the characters arrive amidst a catastrophe, guiding us on an erotic journey based on a Chinese folk tale. We meet an over-zealous Monk and two twin phantasmagoric muses: Xiao Qing the Green Snake, and Bai Suzhen the White Snake, who have been training for centuries to take on human form, embracing a realized mortal realm. If you've been slayed by films like Hausu or Sweet Movie, then Greensnake should be next on your list. (Dir. Hark Tsui, 1993)
In Rope, evening is a time for trendy dinner suits and a little champagne, a rousing debate with inquiring minds as you watch the sun set on the city skyline, and, just for the hell of it, murder. We’ve all had to hide the proof of our less savory habits when not-so-rambunctious guests arrive, but for a truly nerve-racking wine-and-dine with your friends, try sitting through dinner with a brand new corpse hidden under the hors-d’oeuvres. (Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1948)
ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW
Iconic, outstandingly bizarre, warping the minds of several generations of costumed moviegoers, this over-the-top rock’n’roll musical was panned when it was released only to become a midnight movie sensation for decades. A young couple’s car breaks down on a rainy night outside a castle. Inside is a convention of freaks led by Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a debauched, cross-dressing mad scientist alien. It’s a gloriously freakish, proto-punk send up of sci-fi/horror films from the 30s-70s with Susan Sarandon as sexy and kinky as you’ll ever see her. (Dir. Jim Sharman, 1975)