‘After Hours’ (1985): An Appreciation

❉ Equal parts hilarious and disturbing, Martin Scorsese’s ‘After Hours’ is a cult classic. 

“Well received critically but not universally loved, After Hours has become something of a cult classic, and sits alongside The King of Comedy as one of Scorsese’s most undervalued and atypical efforts… The film has an element of anger to it, a sort of “fuck-it-all” spirit of hostility and attitude that makes the viewer feel like anything can happen over this one, long, sexy, dangerous, surreal night in New York.”

After Hours is wild and crazy Martin Scorsese movie madness, made with a genuine sense of screwy energy, with an off-kilter tone, and lots of visual panache. This was the first movie where Scorsese worked with legendary cinematographer Michael Ballhaus – sparks would immediately fly and a cinematic love affair would be born.

Griffin Dunne was perfectly cast as a Kafka-esque lead character suffering a bizarre night of big city antics that begins to feel like some sort of nightmarish fever dream of loose ends and random encounters. Everyone he comes into contact with is strange, stranger, and then finally strangest, and while there’s nothing particularly deep about the movie, it works as a perfect example of unfiltered style, sly comic timing, and bad-trip machinations that are equal parts hilarious and disturbing.

Rosanna Arquette was the perfect blend of cute AND sexy, which is always a dangerous combination, and future screen femme fatale Linda Fiorentino (The Last Seduction, Bodily Harm, Unforgettable, Jade, Vision Quest) pops up as a bizarre sculptor with some interesting ideas on the process of life. The absurdly awesome supporting cast includes Cheech Marin, Teri Garr, John Heard, Catherine O’Hara, Verna Bloom, Bronson Pinchot, Larry Block, and Will Patton. Scorsese would win Best Director at Cannes, while audiences in the states resisted its odd charms on a theatrical level, with the movie only grossing $10 million.

Well received critically but not universally loved, the film has become something of a cult classic, and sits alongside The King of Comedy as one of the auteur’s most undervalued and atypical efforts. The film was partially born out of Scorsese’s frustration with getting his passion project The Last Temptation of Christ to the big screen, after a variety of battles with studio brass and various outside attack groups. As such, After Hours has an element of anger to it, a sort of “fuck-it-all” spirit of hostility and attitude that makes the viewer feel like anything can happen over this one, long, sexy, dangerous, surreal night in New York.

This was Scorsese’s ode to screwball comedy and film noir all in one, with nods to both genres filling the inventive screenplay, and with Howard Shore’s playfully creepy original score peppering each scene with a great sense of wink-wink irony. And then you get the film’s truly bravura final shot, as Dunne makes his way back to his desk at his office the next morning, covered in the remnants of plaster of Paris, with the camera wildly circling and covering the floor of his office, and you just chuckle to yourself that Scorsese and his team have been messing with us the entire time. 2013’s more serious and ominous mind-bender Enemy feels like some sort of strange, distant cousin with After Hours. It’s totally insane that After Hours isn’t out on Blu-ray*. 

* ‘After Hours’ is currently only available on Blu-ray as a Spanish import, Region A/B/C, plays in English. Languages: English DTS-HD 2.0, Spanish DTS-HD 2.0, German DD 2.0. Check out this link to get it from Amazon UK. Disclosure: We Are Cult is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk


❉ ‘After Hours ’ (1985) Director: Martin Scorsese. Writer: Joseph Minion. Cast: Griffin Dunne, Rosanna Arquette, Verna Bloom, Tommy Chong, Linda Fiorentino, Teri Garr. Producers: Amy Robinson, Griffin Dunne, Robert F. Colesberry. Total running time 93 mins approx. Previously released on VHS in the UK by Warner Home Entertainment as part of The Elite Collection in 1992, and on Region 1 DVD in North America by Warner Home Video in 2004. Also available on Prime Video Prime Video from £3.49 to rent.

 Nick Clement is a journalist for Variety Magazine and motion picture screenplay consultant, as well as a critic for websites We Are Cult and Back to the Movies. He wrote the introduction to the book Double Features: Big Ideas in Film, which was published by The Great Books Foundation, and is currently working on a book about the life and work of filmmaker Tony Scott. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and son

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