After Hours

After Hours ★★★★

The World Is More Than Enough 2: Back To The 30 Countries (9/30 - USA)

I think I'm probably going to need to rewatch this, and I mean within about a month.

Not because there is anything wrong with After Hours. But I think the key to me enjoying this even more than I already did is trying to figure out exactly what Martin Scorsese was trying to say here and what exactly his film is meant to be about. If I crack that, then I think this could end up as one of my favourite films.

After Hours is perhaps most obviously an exaggerated commentary on the potential nightmare of urban living, but I'm not entirely sure that supposition sits quite right with me on its own. There are things in After Hours that make me wonder if there is a hell of a lot more going on here than I have been able to get on a first viewing. At the very least, it is obvious enough that Scorsese is indeed having another stab at urban vigilantism and the surreal circumstances that those dwelling in the inner-city can find themselves regarding as normal.

It's the exaggeration of those elements that interests me the most. None of the characters in this film are quite normal aside, perhaps, from John Heard's bartender. Everyone else is a slight notch down on the realism scale and a notch up on the 'behaving weird' scale. No-one is an out-and-out fruit loop here, not even Catherine O'Hara's ice-cream seller. Everyone seems to have a reason why they're a bit of an oddball, in fact.

Have they been driven that way by urban living? Or is Scorsese just in a more playful mood than he perhaps ever has been in any of the rest of his films? It's delightful to find a film that asked so many questions of me and yet just because some of the answers escape me it wasn't an even slightly frustrating film. It is in fact slightly brilliant and often very funny.

Of course, this being me, the funniest bit I saw was the picture that Griffin Dunne sees on the wall of the toilet. More than just a sight gag though, it's also a sound gag as Dunne is so taken aback that he audibly stops piddling so he can take in what he just saw. I'm still giggling about it now. I'm not 36 years old. I'm 37 years old. It's a film littered with barbed little one-liners and character actions rather than any grand comedic movements or speeches.

A cast that is bordering on ensemble, headed in my opinion by a hilariously droll performance by Linda Fiorentino as a sort of laissez-faire concept artist and O'Hara's cackling vigilante gang leader, is marshalled brilliantly by Scorsese. They very rarely interact with each other and Scorsese organises them into their own segments both narratively and geographically. It almost feels a bit like an old RPG computer game. Oh shit, I'm back in the cafe with Victor Argo again. I wonder if John Heard's unlocked the bar yet?

This segmented approach is perhaps key to organising the chaos that is After Hours. It's not a film Scorsese would have wanted to let out of control but one that he rightly kept simmering on an undercurrent of unpredictable but not lunatic behaviour. Even Dunne is not allowed to become too exasperated because if he did it's almost as if he would start to fully accept what was happening to him and the film would lose its sense of fun.

I'm quite sure that After Hours fully deserves more than I'm giving it but I do really think that there is more for me to discover here. The fact that it's probably going to end up with me favouring it over another 'lunacy in the middle of the night' 1980s comedy thriller that I love, namely Into The Night, is achievement enough for now, I think.

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