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After Hours (Scorsese Collection) (DVD)
When an uptown New Yorker innocently meets a downtown girl, he's uncontrollably drawn into a vortex of wild, malevolent and paranoid adventures After Hours. Paul Hackett's (Griffin Dunne) terrible night happens in the SoHo area of downtown Manhattan when he goes to keep a date with Marcy (Rosanna Arquette). Nothing in his humdrum life as a word processor has prepared him for his surreal encounters with Marcy; her far-out artist roommate Kiki (Linda Fiorentino); cocktail waitress Julie (Teri Garr); ice cream vendor Gail (Catherine O'Hara); June (Verna Bloom), who lives in the basement of a nightclub; and Mark (Robert Plunket) who is ripe for his first gay experience. Now, Paul longs only for the safety of his upper-East Side apartment ... but will he ever make it home?]]>
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a bunch of other people and Griffin Dunne [who I didn't know] in the lead role as Paul Hackett, a guy with a boring programming job in NYC
who dreams of starting a magazine for aspiring writers.
Scorsese struck on this in a period of gloom. He had been working on a big and serious movie, "The Last Temptation of Christ", but ended
up in such a disagreement with the studio over budget that he set aside the film, after putting a lot of energy into it. No doubt the studio feared it was going to be a loser. So Scorsese decided to look toward smaller, independent producers and a smaller-budget film. He struck on this script, which Tim Burton was interested in directing, but as soon as Scorsese said he'd like to do it, Burton immediately bowed out.
This apparently started as a long stand-up monologue by an actor named Joe Frank. From there, it was converted into a film script by Joseph Minion, aptly titled, "A Night in Soho". Scorsese made a few more alterations including the final title, "After Hours". This was the first fiction work by Scorsese in a decade which did NOT use Robert De Niro as an actor. Interesting factoid.
Audiences were underwhelmed and it only grossed about $10 million on release. Critics were impressed. Roger Ebert gave it 4 out of 5 stars and commented that it was one of the best films of the year, and demonstrated Scorsese's combining of "comedy, satire, unrelenting pressure and a pervasive feeling of paranoia." Scorsese actually got "best director" at Cannes Film Festival for this, and it has a very strong rating of 90% positive on Rotten Tomatoes. It became something of a cult classic.
Although it was made in 1985, it makes heavy use of pop tunes circa 1950's or so, all of which are incongruously happy and romantic.
The story is so peculiar that in some respects it resembles a dream--one of those disturbing but not-exactly-nightmare dreams that you'd like to wake up from, but just go on and on, and you're stuck trying to resolve the same unresolvable situation.
Paul Hackett, the young programmer with grandiose dreams, leaves work and stops at a nondescript, almost empty diner for something to eat. There he meets a rather attractive blonde [Arquette] who chats with him about the book he's reading [Tropic of Cancer] and comes up with a reason
to give him her telephone number. Returning to his apartment, alone, he calls her up and she invites him to stop over at the apartment she's sharing with a female friend, a sculptor. He hops in a cab and his "nightmare" begins.
Everything imaginable goes wrong, in rather hilarious ways, but this acting is all done very straight-faced. There is no slapstick about the humor here. It falls into the genre of "black humor". To try to go into the plot at all would sort of spoil viewing it. He stumbles from one bizarre situation into another, and though at first they all seem unrelated, gradually we see that actually they all ARE related, in some way or another.
One scene, in which Hackett is arguing with a bouncer about why he can't be let into a nightclub, was inserted by Scorsese based on a scene from Franz Kafka's "The Trial", a great literary classic of deeply dark comedy. That scene involved the protagonist's interminable wait for proceedings to actually begin. Scorsese inserted it here as a memo about his interminable struggle with Paramount over "Last Temptation of Christ", and it fits
perfectly into this story line too.
Additional fun fact: Scorsese inserts himself into the film too, in a bit part (the way Hitchcock and I think Tarentino often do).
My inclination while I was watching it was to wonder why I was sticking with it, but I could not resist finding out how this thing was going to end. When it finally ended I had to admit it was one of the more interesting films I've seen recently. I give it an A-.
Bored and alone one Friday Night, Paul Hackett takes his copy of Tropic of Cancer and sets out to a local coffee shop because there's nothing on cable and it beats being alone at home. While there he meets a beautiful, vaguely mysterious woman named Marcy who lures him to her friend's loft with the promise of a Plaster of Paris Bagel and Cream Cheese paperweight. And this is where it all starts to go horribly wrong.
Over the brief span of the evening, he'll find himself wrongly accused in a string of burglaries, menaced by art house thugs, and pursued by a gang of neighborhood vigilantes, thanks to the machinations of a spurned fugitive from the 60's who happens to work part time at a copy shop. At his lowest moment, hiding from the vigilantes, crouching on a fire escape, he witnesses a woman shoot her abusive lover to death, and can only deadpan, "I'll probably get blamed for that."
Set against the dark urban landscape of Soho, Scorsese's comedy is part noir thriller, part existential nightmare, wherein the hapless hero finds himself lost and trapped in a landscape so foreign, yet so maddeningly close to home. Paul Hackett is a nice guy who finds himself at odds with the city and an apparently absent or uncaring God, causing him to cry out in his frustration "What do you want from me? I'm just a word processor!"
The film features a truly stand out performance by Griffin Dunne as Paul Hackett, and Rosanna Arquette as the seductive yet vulnerable Marcy. Also look for Linda Fiorentino in an early role along with Will Patton at his absolute toughest, and a delightful appearance by Cheech and Chong as well as New York staple Rockets Redglare.
This is the ideal comedy for anyone who's ever had one of those days when nothing went right. The joy and delight of this film is watching Paul Hackett almost make it home so many times, only for things to get worse as he navigates this cityscape of intertwining characters. This film is delightfully harrowing and brings the viewer a much needed sense of Schadenfreude.