After Hours

After Hours ★★★★½

After Hours is such an odd and peculiar film, unique among Martin Scorsese's eclectic filmography but an underseen and underappreciated classic. It's brilliantly quirky and a lot of fun, playing out as a comedic ride with some nastier undertones. There's something about its breathless vibe and fractal-like plot of repeating coincidences that draws me in every time, and After Hours is a real blast of exciting style.

The lead character wants to escape the dull reality of everyday life, and seeks to have a fun night to make him forget about it. He's lost in the maze of office life, where every angle looks the same, and attempts to spend the night with an attractive woman he meets. Unfortunately, in this journey which ultimately brings him back to the beginning, everything just collides to screw the protagonist. It's the ultimate farce: everything that could go wrong, does go wrong. After Hours covers just one night, full of a series of unlikely coincidences, and increasingly ridiculous and contrived events. The lead gets roped into all sorts of things and everything is interrupted and incomplete, all until life repeats. This is a film filled with unfinished stories, as another ridiculous setup cuts each moment short. Many of the characters reveal intimate details, leaving After Hours a film with many unanswered mysteries. This confluence of the unlikely creates a sense of conspiracy as everything and everyone seems to join forces to keep the lead from getting what he wants. Sometimes he brings misfortune on himself, but in general his bad luck just multiplies constantly. He has luck on his side occasionally but he has to be one of the unluckiest characters in cinema.

After Hours takes place almost entirely at night and shows how everything seems to be stranger at night. The night brings out the weird and the eccentric as different rules seem to apply after hours. The city may seem dead, with only a few instances of living people, but it also manages to be vibrant in areas where it is alive. The city in After Hours is just a tangled web of interconnected people, it's a small world and everything links together. We see a mixed group of people in this strange night-time netherworld, with sculptors, lonely women, kinky characters, members of a mob, and gay characters all taking up multiple roles in this crazy story. All of this is held together by the kafkaesque bureaucracy of the night, where social authorities seem to enforce stupidity. The rainy, dreary darkness creates a damp night, and the city of After Hours is a great hyperbolic representation of the world we can only see at the least sociable of hours. At night, the city is different, and it's the perfect setting for the story of a lost man trapped in unfortunate events.

After Hours is Martin Scorsese at his most entertaining. It's a very funny film that is also lean and efficient, never outstaying its welcome. It's a comedy of endless inconvenience, and perfectly planned to create the maximum possible mayhem around the lead character. It has lashings of dark humour at times and a streak of Carol Reed's Odd Man Out (a night in the city, a lead constantly on the run, taking refuge with an artist), but After Hours is a distinctive film and one of Scorsese's more stylish efforts. There's a fantastic score and plenty of sweeping, gliding shots through the physical space. There's quite a few movements that go from afar to close-up, and the entire film is just fast and lively. It's hilarious and strange, delirious and disorientating, fun and weird. There's just nothing quite like After Hours.

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