After a brief hiatus whilst they divorced their old distributor (Sony) and got hitched to a new one (Spirit Entertainment) the Criterion Collection are back in the UK, and quite frankly, they couldn’t have picked a better film to announce their return. Martin Scorsese’s jet-black comedy ‘After Hours’ has been long overdue getting a proper release, and this 4K UHD restoration is an absolute cracker.
There were lots of films made in the 80s about yuppies getting dragged out of their comfort zone by alluring women, but few capture the panic and sexual frustration of its main character quite so well as ‘After Hours’. Flitting between screwball hijinks and existential questions on the absurdity of modern life, it is a unique and thrilling viewing experience, and this excellent new release should introduce it to a whole new generation of film fans.
Griffin Dunne plays Paul, an uptown office worker who meets Marcy (Rosanna Arquette) in a coffee shop. When she invites him to her place downtown, he ventures into the night in the hope of a casual hook-up, but ends up trapped in an increasingly surreal and Kafkaesque nightmare. He finds downtown New York—a very different place in the early 80s to what it is today—to be an absurd, almost deserted maze, and the few locals he crosses paths with are eccentric to say the least.
His initial desire to get laid quickly changes to a desperate need to get the hell out of this place and back home. By the time he is mistaken for a burglar, and becomes a fugitive in this already hostile neighbourhood, what should have been a fun night is now the worst night of his life. Frenetically paced, Scorsese captures this wild and darkly comic ride in his inimitable style. His giddy camerawork amped up by Michael Ballhaus’s vivid photography, and Thelma Schoonmaker’s quick-fire cuts.
‘After Hours’ has been largely overlooked when discussing Scorsese’s career. It doesn’t fit within the (entirely wrong) narrative that he only makes movies about violent criminals. The decade between ‘Raging Bull’ and ‘Goodfellas’ was a challenging period, where he battled with studios, struggled to get projects funded, and the ones he did get off the ground were not hugely successful. ‘The King of Comedy’ for example was a box-office flop.
‘After Hours’ was produced right in the middle of this, and you can feel that he is using the freedom of working on a lower budget project (not initiated by himself) to exorcise some of his professional frustrations, and just let loose. It’s a dark and weird film, hilarious and nightmarish, and visually stunning. It’s Scorsese at his freewheeling best.
The special features kick off with an audio commentary recorded in 2004 with Scorsese, Griffin Dunne, producer Amy Robinson, director of photography Michael Ballhaus, and editor Thelma Schoonmaker. There are also some additional comments from Dunne and Robinson which were recorded specifically for this release in 2023.
Next up is a brand-new interview with Scorsese conducted by Fran Lebowitz. Across 20-minutes he talks about his experiences of making the film, where he was in his career at that time, and his recollections of downtown New York. It’s a fabulous conversation, and fascinating to anyone who’s ever been to the modern, tourist friendly version that Tribeca is today.
‘Filming for your Life’ is a short documentary from 2004 about the making of ‘After Hours’. There’s another brand-new feature about the look of ‘After Hours’ including audio interviews with the costume and production designers on the film. Also on the disc are 8-minutes of deleted scenes, and the original theatrical trailer. The booklet with the disc includes an essay by critic Sheila O’Malley.
Cast: Griffin Dunne, Rosanna Arquette, Verna Bloom, Linda Fiorentino, Teri Garr, John Heard, Catherine O’Hara Director: Martin Scorsese Writer: Joseph Minion Released By: Spirit Entertainment Certificate: 15 Duration: 97 mins Release Date: 9th October 2023