After Hours

After Hours ★★★★★

During the mid-1980s, director Martin Scorsese’s career was stuck after the lack of box office success for The King Of Comedy and his frustration trying to get The Last Temptation Of Christ financed by a major studio. Connecting with an independent production by actor Griffin Dunne and Amy Robinson (who acted in Mean Streets), they wanted to get a script made called A Night In Soho, the thesis screenplay by Joseph Minion (who would also script Vampire’s Kiss). The result is one of my all time favourite films, After Hours (1985), which created a comedy based on anxiety, fear, and Kafkaesque turns of bad luck. 

Nothing I like better than movies that take place over the course of one long night, and After Hours is the king of that sub-genre as mild-mannered computer programmer Paul Hackett (Dunne) decides to step out of his comfort zone, on a spontaneous date with the alluring Marcy (Rosanna Arquette). A cold, chaotic universe answers with frustration upon frustration, bringing to the boil Paul’s latent hostility and paranoia. Shot on location and on a low budget, Scorsese flexes his fast-paced style with cinematographer Michael Ballhaus and their tributes to Hitchcockian thrillers work to snapshot eighties boho New York vibes, of late night diners, lonely bars and dark streets, the urban atmosphere of Scorsese’s previous work, Taxi Driver turned into a wacky Looney Tunes cartoon. With its variety of characters, different actors step into frame to inject the madness with their greatness - Teri Garr, Catherine O’Hara, John Heard, Linda Fiorentino, Will Patton, Dick Miller, Verna Bloom, and even Cheech and Chong. Howard Shore’s score provides a creepy, kooky atmosphere. 

Not for everyone, particularly those who get anxious at the comedy of inconvenience. I love Dunne’s beleaguered performance and it’s nocturnal journey into an oddball realm waiting in the urban jungle. To quote Dick Miller’s character, “different rules apply...” Recommended.

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