After Hours

After Hours ★★★★½

I’ve always had a fondness for After Hours. I love grimy 70s and 80s New York City films, and this feels like the ultimate “missed your last subway home lost in the city” nightmare flick. It doesn’t feel anarchic because Paul almost gets forcibly mohawked at an all-hours punk club; it feels anarchic because that seems like the safest place he could be at that point.

When I learned about Scorsese’s path to making this film, it only added to its meaning. Scorsese’s futile attempts to make The Last Temptation of Christ felt like Paul’s futile attempts to connect with anyone in this film. Paul isn’t Travis Bickle by a long shot, but with every eccentric he tries to explain his situation to, the crazy seems to seep from the city into him.

Scorsese had a pretty nasty cocaine habit around this time, and he speeds belligerent taxis and Cheech and Chong vans around corners like lines up his nose. Cameras zoom in cause they feel like it, and we just have to deal with it.

Towards the end of his crazed trip, Paul slides a coin into a jukebox and plays the most perfect song I have ever heard in a Scorsese film. I know that’s a bold claim, but it nails this film, it nails this time for Scorsese, and it sometimes feels like it nails everything.


“I remember when I was a very little girl, our house caught on fire
I'll never forget the look on my father's face as he gathered me up in his arms and raced through the burning building out to the pavement
I stood there shivering in my pajamas and watched the whole world go up in flames
And when it was all over I said to myself, “is that all there is to a fire?”

Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing
Let's break out the booze and have a ball
If that's all there is

And when I was twelve years old, my father took me to a circus, the greatest show on earth
There were clowns and elephants and dancing bears
And a beautiful lady in pink tights flew high above our heads
And so I sat there watching the marvelous spectacle
I had the feeling that something was missing
I don't know what, but when it was over
I said to myself, "is that all there is to a circus?”

Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing
Let's break out the booze and have a ball
If that's all there is

Then I fell in love, head over heels in love, with the most wonderful boy in the world
We would take long walks by the river or just sit for hours gazing into each other's eyes
We were so very much in love
Then one day he went away and I thought I'd die, but I didn't
and when I didn't I said to myself, “is that all there is to love?”

Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep-

I know what you must be saying to yourselves
if that's the way she feels about it why doesn't she just end it all?
Oh, no, not me I'm in no hurry for that final disappointment
for I know just as well as I'm standing here talking to you
when that final moment comes and I'm breathing my last breath, I'll be saying to myself

Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing
Let's break out the booze and have a ball
If that's all there is“

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