After Hours

After Hours ★★★★

"The uglier the art, the more it's worth."
"This must be worth a fortune!"

I'm torn about this one, so rather than forcing myself to commit to one reading, I want to simply present my dilemma, as that feels like a truer representation of my experience watching this for the first time. Maybe I'll decide definitively one way or the other later on and retrospectively regret this (I'm already leaning pretty strongly in one direction after sitting on this review for a week to edit it), but everybody watches stuff for the first time and doesn't know what to think sometimes, so hopefully this is at least relatable.

Long story short: I love the premise but find the women characters to be a bit sexist.

I love this idea of a night where everything just goes absolutely as wrong as it possibly could. I love this idea that the city is different at night, that the world fundamentally changes after the sun goes down, that "different rules apply when it gets this late, it's like After Hours." And I love this feeling, this vibe that the entire world has turned against you, that everything and everyone is evil and selfish and fickle, that your destiny hates you, that "fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony."

I write a lot about noir and about fatalism and cynicism because I'm fascinated by them, because despite my general tendency toward optimism and positivity I really feel that negativity deep in my bones and at the core of my being. I try to promote hope in order to fight the despair that I feel in my soul. Sometimes I just watch noir for the dialogue, and the analysis of fatalism is more academic; but here in After Hours, that cynicism is felt, it is woven through the very fabric of the film, inscribed onto celluloid, and I absolutely love that.

But the women. And I know: if everybody's awful, can awful women really be a sign of misogyny? I don't know, that's why I'm presenting my dilemma this way, but what I can tell you is that it feels misogynist. The women aren't just any hurdle like the other characters, they're the greatest hurdles, they're the hurdles that reach up for Paul as he's vaulting over them and that drag him back down to the ground and bury him.

In a world that often revolves around misplacing emotional baggage, women seem to be both unfairly dealing out the most to others and failing that hardest to manage their own. Which, like, I don't know, maybe there's something there about how women are forced to do more emotional labor than men, so of course they share that burden with others when they can, and of course they buckle under the weight of it when they can't. I certainly believe that that's true of reality, I'm just not sure that I feel it in the film.

Now that I've sat on this review I've convinced myself that it was there in the film all along, now that I've edited I've convinced myself that it was always there to begin with, and now I want to start over from scratch and rewrite this whole mess, but it's too late for me, this was my fate, my awful destiny, and as much as the optimism and positivity within me wants to present my position in a clean and clear-cut way now that the sun has come up, perhaps it's more true to the film to tell it as it happened, unpolished, sun-set, After Hours.

"Are you alright?"
"Why do you keep asking that?"

1980s | Martin Scorsese | Film Noir

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