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Alrighty. Kicking it off with what is probably not the "best" Scorsese film, but may very well be my favorite...


After Hours
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Screenplay by Joseph Minion
Cinematography by Michael Ballhaus
CAST: Griffin Dunne, Rosanna Arquette, Linda Fiorentino, John Heard,
Teri Garr, Catherine O'Hara, Verna Bloom, Will Patton, Dick Miller,
Bronson Pinchot, Cheech & Chong
1985, approximately 97 minutes


After Hours is an extremely dark comedy, a Kafkaesque nightmare of guilt and big city paranoia. The story centers on Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne), a bored computer programmer in some nondescript Mid-town NYC office. His apartment is as drab and empty as the rest of his life. One evening while reading alone at a coffee shop, Paul meets Marci (Rosanna Arquette), a sexy blond. They have a breezy, flirty talk about Henry Miller and art and whatever. She makes mention of a friend's loft in SoHo where she's staying, finds an excuse to drop the phone number into the conversation, and then she's gone. On a whim and the whiff of possible romance, Paul calls her as soon as he gets home. She invites him out into the night, and though it's late and a weeknight, he accepts, and so begins his odyssey.



What follows is a dark, twisted, hilarious series of misadventures, as things spin further and further out of Paul's control and he seems stuck in the Hell of downtown after midnight and before sunrise. The movie is populated with a multitude of intriguingly bizarre characters, played to the hilt by an eclectic cast. Griffin Dunne (An American Werewolf in London) is the perfect protagonist to put through this kind of urban torture, a neurotic version of the everyman. Rosanna Arquette (Desperately Seeing Susan) simply is Marci, the hot-and-cold, always weird, but extremely sexy girl that coaxes him into this whole mess. Among the other odd denizens of the night are Teri Garr (Young Frankenstein, Mr. Mom) as a bee-hived waitress ("Do you like the Monkees?"), Cheech & Chong as a couple of roaming burglars, John Heard (Big, Home Alone) as a friendly bartender, Will Patton (No Way Out, The Postman) as a leather-bound tough guy, Catherine O'Hara ("SCTV", Best in Show) as an ice cream truck driver, and Linda Fiorentino (Men in Black, The Last Seduction) as the moody, half-dressed sculptress of Plaster-of-Paris bagel & cream cheese paperweights. Every role, no matter how small, is perfectly cast, from the cab driver to the bouncer outside the club to the token seller in the subway. The cab driver shoots a look of anger and annoyance that is so genuine, I cringe and laugh everytime I see it - a look I recognize instantly and all too well from personal experience.



Every situation, every character, every line, every camera move is so nuanced that you MUST watch the flick multiple times to begin to take it all in. The tone is patently unnerving. Scorsese is a master of...well, many things, including editing a film so that the audience becomes emotionally locked into what is happening on screen. In After Hours, that means you are empathetic witness to a nightmare. It's a really amazing movie, and a whole lot of fun. As Paul gets stuck deeper and deeper into he Hellish quagmire of the SoHo district, you can't help but feel for the guy - and laugh at him too. The entire plot is patently unlikely, but that's not the point. This is the stuff that surreal nightmares are made of, not pithy anecdotes. As the night rolls on and the tension builds, it becomes more and more hilarious. Well, it's hilarious if you find suicide and blood-thirsty mobs to be breeding grounds for comedy. Did I mention the mob is being led by a Mr. Softee Ice Cream truck playing a tinkling jingle? This is grotesque dark humor at its finest.

It's a wonderful script by Joseph Minion (Vampire's Kiss), who was an NYU student at the time. Longtime Marty collaborators Thelma Schoonmaker and Michael Ballhaus are along for the editing and cinematography chores, and Howard Shore (The Silence of the Lambs, SE7EN, The Lord of the Rings) adds a playfully haunting score. This is some of Schoonmaker's best work, right up there with Raging Bull and GoodFellas. Scorsese and Ballhaus really have some fun with stylized, exaggerated camera movement, so much so that you may want to take a Dramamine before you watch.

After Hours received very mixed reviews back in 1985, but it did nab Scorsese the Best Director at Cannes, a nomination for Dunne at the Golden Globes, and it won Best Feature at the very first Independent Spirit Awards. This is a brilliant movie that still too-few people seem to know very well today, and one that I force upon folks, constantly. Usually whenever I do, they are blown away, wonder why they've never heard of it.

I love this movie, and for many years, I never took a trip to NYC without watching it, first.