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After Hours

Although the period of Martin Scorsese's career between Raging Bull (1980) and The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) is regarded as a dip in form for the auteur, the three features he directed during that span rank amongst his most enjoyable efforts and provide interesting — some would say, refreshing — departures from his favored Mean Streets milieu. Scorsese turned to After Hours when his first attempt at producing Last Temptation fell through, and claims that this 1985 fall-back project revived his passion for filmmaking following a series of crises in his personal and professional lives. Scorsese's desperation fuels this wonderfully dark and surreal comic nightmare, arguably the best of the minor genre of "worst night ever" pics. Co-producer Griffin Dunne stars as sexually frustrated desk jockey Paul, who takes an uncharacteristic risk and ventures into Manhattan's arty Soho district just before midnight hoping for a hook-up with an enigmatic woman (Rosanna Arquette) he met earlier in the evening. Not only does his date go horribly awry, but Paul also find himself broke, wounded, hunted by an angry mob, and covered head-to-toes in papier-mache before morning comes. On its own, Joseph Minion's screenplay is quirky without being precious and makes rich comic soil out of its familiar formula (John Landis' Into the Night put a west coast spin on the same situation a year earlier), but Scorsese's dark approach, along with his dazzling technical style and determined pacing, transforms Paul's escalating succession of worst-case scenarios into a very personal odyssey that continues to resonate even at its most outlandish. Dunne gives his best performance as the self-aware Paul, who remains just detached enough from his ordeal to recognize its absurdity, and yet never fails to do just the wrong thing in any given situation. The fine supporting cast reads like a "where are they now?" of iconic 1980s character actors, with bright performances by Arquette (who also has never been better, or more beguiling), Teri Garr, John Heard, and Catherine O'Hara, and cameos by Cheech & Chong and Bronson Pinchot. Also with Verna Bloom. The mesmerizing score by Howard Shore perfectly complements Michael Ballhaus' superb cinematography. Warner's DVD release of After Hours presents the feature in a good anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with monaural Dolby Digital audio. This disc also includes commentary on selected scenes by, alternately, Scorsese, Dunne, co-producer Amy Robinson, editor Thelma Schoonmaker, and Ballhaus. Also included is a decent deleted-scenes reel (8 min.), a retrospective featurette with sound-bites from Dunne, Robinson, Schoonmaker, and others (20 min.), and the theatrical trailer. Keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr



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