Friday, July 26, 2013
After Hours. A-
After Hours came in the middle of Martin Scorsese's unusual 1980s period of lighter fare, in which he consecutively made this, The King of Comedy, and The Color of Money (I wouldn't call the latter especially light on its own terms but compared to Scorsese's typical style of drama it definitely is). Regardless of how unusual these films were for Scorsese, especially because their bookends were Raging Bull and The Last Temptation of Christ, it's one of my favorite periods of his career. And I would place After Hours as the best of the bunch. It's one of the most energetic and eventful comedies ever made, a tale of one man's bumpy ride during New York City's after hours that literally doesn't let up. Paul Hackett, the poor hero, is a wonderful character because throughout the entire night he makes us feel both empathy and sympathy. Even though it's a light-hearted comedy, it wouldn't be nearly as good if the protagonist wasn't so sad and lonely and likable. And that's essentially the whole point: Paul works a lousy job and it looks like on Friday night, when the film opens, it will be his usual evening of reading in a coffee shop. So of course the one night he decides to go on a blind date, everything goes wrong. The real joy of the film is just seeing what cards Scorsese and his screenwriters have up their sleeves. We know it's implausible and built on wild coincidences, so we just wonder with awe and delight which one will come up next. This is also one of Scorsese's most visually eccentric films, using a variety of flashy techniques and some of his most elaborate tracking shots to, well, I'm not quite sure. I suppose make it look interesting, and to fit the tone of the night (final note: as funny as this is, it's still quite dark, which is probably why Tim Burton was originally approached to direct it. Though Scorsese made it just about perfect, seeing early Burton work with this material would have been pretty exciting).