Criterion Prediction #253: After Hours, by Alexander Miller

Title: After Hours

Year: 1985

Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Griffin Dunne, Rosanna Arquette, Verna Bloom, Linda Fiorentino, Tommy Chong

Synopsis: An ordinary data entry worker endures the night from hell after he goes home with a young lady he meets in a coffee bar.

Critique: While I have all the love in the world for Mean Streets, Goodfellas and The Departed, it’s almost more exciting when Scorsese steps away from the world of crime and falls into something off the radar. Seeing Scorsese wander into more comedic territory is kind of like when P.T. Anderson riffed out Inherent Vice. They operate under the veil of genre but these films speak a different filmic language. There’s something a little darker about these movies, they hit a little harder, take more chances, and thanks to the protruding head of authorship. And if you’re someone like Martin Scorsese, after the success of Raging Bull, you probably get to do whatever the hell you want. Thankfully he dropped two of his most unique films, the baffling box office disaster that is The King of Comedy and the freeform, Kafkaesque riff that is After Hours.

Scorsese takes us through the proverbial night from hell experienced by its protagonist, Paul (Griffin Dunne, the perfect catalyst for the “everyman” role). It’s reminiscent of The Trial (the story and the film), but it’s jacked-up with the unpredictable structure of a classic Hollywood screwball picture. Still, the style and execution come from the inimitable artistic core that is Scorsese’s direction. Some scenes breathe, others howl, and in between, we’re turning purple because we can’t exhale. After Hours is a perfectly insane movie that makes frustration and paranoia feel like an interactive game. We could extrapolate some haughty social commentary on the clannish mentality of mob rule or look at themes of abandonment, isolation and urban decay. Still, the sporadic, in-the-moment presentation of the material begets a more superficial interpretation on my part, is that so bad? 

Why It Belongs in the Collection: While the Netflix/Criterion deal brought us Marriage Story and rumors that Scorsese’s The Irishman and his documentary Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese could be on their way to the Criterion Collection, I’m sure some film people will cry and whine at this news, as if Netflix is somehow “below” the hallowed arena of Criterion (unless it’s The Other Side of the Wind, la-di-da) but that’s another conversation for another time. However, with the influx of Scorsese movies, the Scorsese Shorts collection, another World Cinema Project and the news mentioned above, it’s possible to see the underrated After Hours get a spine number. There’s nothing in the way of an available Blu-ray. It would be in the tradition of the Criterion Collection to resurrect a lesser-seen movie from a premier director.

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