Wed. Jul 24th, 2024

Disorientation and Direction

Martin Scorsese’s After Hours is distinguished by a surreal atmosphere in which odd individuals display conduct that defies normal rules, but obsessive reasoning pervades every aspect of the story. Viewing the comedy requires a willing surrender to a series of foreboding coincidences, in which ephemeral moments of security and potential give way to perplexing yet unsettling peril. While the epithet “Kafkaesque” might seem appropriate for defining its paranoid internalism, it fails to capture the unashamedly bizarre behaviors presented or the tremendously hilarious impact they have. In addition, the film ensnares the audience in such excruciating perplexities that the comedic elements may become imperceptible, transforming the experience into a twisted journey reminiscent of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland transposed onto a New York City landscape, a transformation only possible by a director with Scorsese’s intimate familiarity with the city, as evidenced by his prior works such as Mean Streets and Taxi Driver.

Although not commonly recognized as one of his classics, Scorsese’s 1985 film is an unparalleled stylistic experiment in his oeuvre—an examination in which methods and sentiments take precedence over the nightmare logic that supports the story. The camera is unmistakably present in After Hours. It moves diagonally forward in the first sequence, focusing on Paul Hackett, a word processor in a Manhattan office. The shot creates a sense of unease, with the expectation of chairs being overturned or cries of distress upon impact. While Paul is mentoring a new coworker at his workstation, a passing woman catches his eye, forcing the camera to follow her, indicating her importance. However, as Paul’s gaze moves, so does the camera, highlighting the woman’s insignificance. The initial scene demonstrates Scorsese and cinematographer Michael Ballhaus’ intention to disorient viewers, making a sense of direction illusive.

If films are representative of societal trends—and they are, as they provide vital insight into historical contexts—then white middle-class America in the mid-1980s both desired and dreaded the nocturnal metropolitan environment. The cinemas were saturated with stories about timid protagonists forced into a dangerous world merely by going downtown, mirroring a widespread cultural concern. The story’s archetype proved to be effective: by immersing a rigid character in a world devoid of inhibitions, where survival is dependent on interactions with unconventional counterparts, it fosters a sense of shared amusement at the protagonist’s distress while also fostering empathy for their predicament, with an implicit desire for a return to normalcy at sunrise.

The plot begins with Paul attempting to escape the constraints of his apartment one fateful evening in search of a connection. His choice of refuge takes him to a diner, where he loses himself in the writing of Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer. Surprisingly, his reading piques the interest of Marcy, an attractive young woman who starts a conversation on Miller’s work. Intrigued by the allure of a casual liaison, Paul is drawn away from the safety of his familiar midtown Manhattan milieu and ensnared in the enigmatic and enchanting ambiance of SoHo after nightfall, under the flimsy pretext of obtaining a bagel-and-cream-cheese paperweight crafted by Marcy’s artist acquaintance, Kiki. However, as a discerning character correctly detects, the moon phase foreshadows misfortune. Paul’s fortunes swiftly deteriorate as he misplaces his only $20 bill on the taxi ride to Kiki’s loft, where Marcy lives. As a result of Marcy’s strange manner, Paul rapidly retreats home, only to be thwarted by insufficient fare and a growing downpour. Seeking solace, he takes refuge in a local establishment owned by Tom, where a promise of subway fare is made contingent on getting keys to an inaccessible cash register from Tom’s home. However, Paul’s path is interrupted when he becomes involved in yet another seemingly unrelated meeting. Thus, his night unfolds as a series of terrifying experiences, provoking existential questions about the probable amplification of his troubles.

In an atmosphere of rising peril and surreality, Paul is relentlessly driven deeper into the labyrinthine maze of his confusion, where the previously seductive SoHo—a bastion of nightly attraction and adventure—morphs into a bewildering fun-house of fake escape routes. The film’s disorienting mix of fear and levity serves as a poignant depiction of Paul’s fragmented mental condition. Scorsese’s satirical homage to film noir and thrillers invites audiences with familiar genre patterns, only to defy expectations with a nihilistic undertone in which apparent significance fades into existential voids. Underneath the surface of humor is a reservoir of fundamental emotions that are often buried by cultural norms—feelings of unfairness, futility, and unending sorrow that are universally shared by humans.

Scorsese’s relatively neglected contribution to the One Crazy Night genre captures the spirit of its thematic context while infusing the narrative with a bizarre and carnivalesque zeal. Paul, initially shown as a dissatisfied resident of midtown Manhattan, evolves into a quasi-sentient automaton exploring the metropolitan world with a distant feeling of ennui. His contact with Marcy, like an interaction under the influence of psychoactive chemicals, sends him on a nighttime voyage fuelled by a frantic desire for sensory sensations in the emptiness of his life.

Strange Inventiveness

When Paul enters Kiki’s loft, he is confronted with a scene of strange inventiveness, with Kiki creating humanoid sculptures in weird surroundings. Despite Paul’s poor attempts at conversation, his experience is more akin to an eerie midnight voyage than a usual night out. As Paul navigates the unknown terrain of SoHo, plagued by a sense of alienation and incomprehension of its customs and residents, the mood resonates with an admixture of anxiety and surrealism, evocative of the artistic techniques of filmmakers such as Jim Jarmusch and Federico Fellini.

Shortly, After Hours acts as a comic mirror, mirroring the thematic underpinnings of Scorsese’s previous films such as Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, and Bringing Out the Dead. Each of these films depicts New York City as a compelling and legendary enclave with a wide range of urban peculiarities, unlike any other city on Earth. Taxi Driver goes into the city’s nadir, a period marked by high crime rates and pervasive street-level vice, which fuels Travis Bickle’s madness. The film makes viewers nervous about getting into a cab because they don’t know who the driver is. Bringing Out the Dead transports audiences to a chilling version of New York City in the 1990s, where derelicts, addicts, and apparitions lurk around every corner, set against the backdrop of Nicolas Cage’s ambulance driver navigating chaotic late-night shifts, his resolve against the city worn down and defeated.

On the contrary, After Hours takes an amused look at the strange human manifestations that appear in the city at night. Characters such as the leather-clad sadomasochist Horst, the Kafka-quoting bouncer of Club Berlin, and the solitary artist June, who expresses parental affection for Paul before ensnaring him in a sculpture evocative of Edvard Munch’s The Scream, all contribute to the bizarre atmosphere. These characters, who appear to be opposed to Paul, add to the mystery surrounding his situation. Marcy’s quick shift in tone, combined with her cryptic references to scars, rape, and burns, heightens Paul’s anxiety, forcing his hasty exit from Kiki’s apartment.

As the night progresses, Paul finds himself involved in a series of interactions and catastrophes, all while desperately trying to go home. Drawing similarities to Ulysses’ journey, albeit in khaki pants, Paul navigates Joseph Minion’s episodic narrative, which includes encounters and discussions interwoven with threads of misinterpretation and missed connections. Scenes change with dreamy fluidity, giving the narrative a sense of confusion. Paul’s every speech and gesture appears to lead him astray, drawing the attention of diverse persons seeking connection or misinterpreting his intentions.

From the cheerful waitress to the man exploring his sexuality, the characters see Paul’s desperation as an attempt to make meaningful connections. Despite the bartender’s best intentions, Paul finds himself unavoidably involved in a chaotic pursuit sparked by a New Wave vigilante’s misidentification. Meanwhile, Kiki’s associates scavenge the neighborhood for stuff to resell, complicating Paul’s already hectic night.

The picture is full of intriguing individuals whose depths remain unknown, adding greatly to the overall atmosphere of nervous anxiety. Each character has an enigmatic nature that resists comprehension, frequently undermining first impressions with unexpected developments. For example, Paul’s dealings with Marcy demonstrate the unpredictability, as she alternates between being viewed as a pathological liar and a conventional oddball. Their initial conversation at the restaurant, centered on Henry Miller’s literature, appears routine until Marcy astutely discovers the diner clerk’s quirks, which shakes Paul’s notion of her normalcy. Marcy then shares intimate facts about her life, ranging from her weird ex-husband’s unusual bedroom conduct to a horrifying account of rape, all presented with unsettling casualness. Such insights test Paul’s understanding, leaving him stunned and perplexed.

Motif of Keys

Certain motifs reoccur throughout Paul’s traumatic journey, providing a sense of familiarity amidst the upheaval. The omnipresence of keys throughout the film acts as a metaphorical motif, with keys being exchanged, flung, and examined in extreme close-ups. Despite Paul’s idea that having the appropriate key represents control and access to his planned destination, the film undermines the notion by emphasizing the protagonist’s fruitless attempts to exert authority. Paul’s urgent questions—”What do you want from me? What have I done?” The keys remain silent, emphasizing his lack of agency in the unfolding events. Nonetheless, Paul clings to these symbols of control, ignorant that they direct his trip rather than vice versa.

In contrast to later films, which may have shown Paul’s nocturnal foray as a life-affirming adventure tinged with light risk, After Hours delivers a severe representation of existential confusion. Unlike the protagonists of previous ’80s One Crazy Night films, who demonstrate varied degrees of terror and fumbling in strange territory, Paul’s journey is marked by a profound sense of uneasiness and powerlessness. The film defies traditional narrative clichés, providing a chilling examination of solitude and uncertainty in the dark maze of New York City.

Beyond Marcy’s obvious peculiarity, she remains an enigmatic conundrum, cloaked in confusion and ambiguity. Alternatively, Paul’s sense of her eccentricities may be purely a result of his imagination. When Paul first arrives at Kiki’s loft, Marcy is notably absent, having allegedly gone to the all-night drugstore for a prescription. When Paul inquires about Marcy’s well-being, Kiki reassures him by cryptically referring to those with significant scars, implying Marcy’s potential ailment. When Marcy returns, she and Paul go to her bedroom, where she showers. During her absence, Paul gives in to temptation, examines her stuff, and discovers a book on burn victims and ointment for second-degree burns, creating additional suspicions about Marcy’s past or current situation. When Marcy returns to the room, Paul notices what looks to be lacerations or claw marks on her inner thigh, sparking suspicion regarding the cause of her injuries. Is it what Kiki was referring to earlier? What riddles lurk beneath Marcy’s surface, and how can Paul traverse the maze of ambiguity without insulting her?

In addition, recurring objects such as clocks, watches, light switches, and telephones play an important part throughout the film, drawing the camera’s constant attention. The primary elements virtually take on sentient qualities, reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s fetishistic visual style. Scorsese and Ballhaus, inspired by Hitchcock, emphasize these things with unrelenting focus, imbuing them with an almost anthropomorphic importance. However, whereas male characters in similar stories may experience growth or self-discovery, Paul, disillusioned by his mundane computer employment, shows little interest in cathartic transformation. Instead, he accepts a survivalist mindset, as evidenced by his detached reaction to witnessing a fatal conflict, in which he jokes about potential culpability.

Confusing Conduct

Throughout Paul’s turbulent evening, each interaction takes an unexpected turn, defying his naive expectations and throwing him into chaos. The conduct of individuals he encounters is confusing, leaving him feeling disoriented as the world appears to upend itself. A persistent sense of powerlessness prevails, exacerbated by the belief that the city and its nightly inhabitants conspire against him. Paul enters Club Berlin to inform Kiki and her boyfriend Horst of Marcy’s death, narrowly avoiding the consequences of the club’s “Mohawk night,” emerging with only a part of his hair shaved. Perhaps it’s retaliation for his carnal aspirations with Marcy, emphasizing the idea that the after-hours metropolitan landscape provides no refuge for a yuppie like him seeking significant or casual interactions.

As Paul is pursued through the city streets by a vigilant neighborhood watch, sure that he is involved in burglaries, the film moves beyond comedy and into a full-fledged paranoid hallucination. After witnessing a lady fatally shoot her husband during a violent fight, Paul’s sense of peril grows, heightened by macabre humor tinged with dread. With no respite in sight, the audience is left wondering how far these insane people will go, even considering the protagonist’s possible death.

Drawing on Hitchcockian themes, the picture portrays four blond women who entangle Paul in the tangled web of his fate, each symbolizing stereotypes that question his notions of reality and manhood. Paul’s meetings with enigmatic Marcy, lovelorn Julie, and dishonest Gail become increasingly dangerous and unpredictable. Even the ostensibly beneficent June provides a false sense of security, keeping Paul in an existential prison of his creation.

The hallucinatory mood of persecution and pursuit that pervades After Hours is reminiscent of Kafka’s works, particularly in a scene in which Paul attempts to negotiate with a bouncer. The conversation, inspired by Kafka’s Before the Law fable, emphasizes the existential absurdity and futility of Paul’s situation, echoing the protagonist’s Kafkaesque spiral into a nightmarish maze of uncertainty and anxiety.

Personal Resonance

For Scorsese, the unrelenting Kafkaesque atmosphere of After Hours took on a very personal resonance, reflecting his struggles and disappointments against the turbulent backdrop of Hollywood. As he attempted to adapt Nikos Kazantzakis’ The Last Temptation of Christ, his encounters with unsuccessful attempts and bureaucratic roadblocks probably contributed to the intense feeling of bewilderment, anxiety, and fury that pervades the film. Scorsese began working on The Last Temptation of Christ with Paramount Pictures in 1983, shortly after the premiere of The King of Comedy. Despite significant preparations, including script revisions, casting, and location scouting, Paramount’s budgetary concerns and religious group opposition resulted in the project’s abrupt cancelation. The loss left Scorsese disillusioned and eager to embark on a new film project.

Among offers for economically feasible scripts, Scorsese eventually settled on Joe Minion’s After Hours, noting its potential for creative expression and thematic relevance. Minion’s work, which began as an assignment for a Columbia University course, grabbed Scorsese with its frantic energy and caustic comedy. Inspired by Serbian director Dusan Makavejev’s teachings and with Kafkaesque undertones, the picture gave Scorsese a platform to explore issues of existential agony and absurdity in the urban setting.

For Scorsese, After Hours was a break from his prior work, providing a therapeutic opportunity to recover his creative voice amidst the confines of Hollywood. Following the commercial failures of Raging Bull and The King of Comedy, the film was a critical success, signifying a return to form for the acclaimed filmmaker. The unexpected circumstances surrounding Scorsese’s involvement in the project, aided by Tim Burton’s decision to withdraw, highlight the unpredictable nature of filmmaking and the strange twists of fate that make history.

Minion’s script, originally named Lies and then A Night in SoHo, was owned by performers Amy Robinson and Griffin Dunne and provided a possibility for quick and cost-effective production. Robinson and Dunne had begun development with a young Tim Burton as director, but as Scorsese expressed interest, Burton kindly surrendered his role. Scorsese was lured to the project’s low-budget independent nature, particularly following the stormy experience with The Last Temptation of Christ, by the potential of creative autonomy free of major studio interference. While he revised the script, a significant chunk of Minion’s original work was borrowed from an unacknowledged monologue named Lies by radio performer Joe Frank, which resulted in future legal challenges that were discreetly addressed.

Budgetary Constraints

With a small $3.5 million budget, Scorsese faced the difficulty of shooting the picture on location in New York City in forty days, similar to his previous experiences with Taxi Driver. He approached the endeavor as a stylistic exercise, hoping to demonstrate his tenacity and creative vitality in the face of professional disappointments. Scorsese and Ballhaus, known for his work with Rainer Werner Fassbinder, experimented with high-speed lenses and dynamic camera motions, building on Ballhaus’ experience with efficient filmmaking.

Despite the limited commercial success of After Hours, the low-budget production allowed Scorsese to stamp his unique style, which is defined by dynamic cinematography and painstakingly crafted music. The film’s change from the De Niro-centric focus of his prior works gave Scorsese artistic freedom and prepared the stage for later mass success with The Color of Money. In addition, focusing the story on Dunne’s modest performance freed Scorsese from the confines of highlighting a star, allowing for a more balanced and nuanced treatment of the film’s issues.

With limited resources and a tight budget, Scorsese methodically prepared each shot in advance, using little sketches and preconceiving the editing process. The method resembled Hitchcock’s painstaking pre-planning, which was known for his lengthy storyboards and thorough scripting, giving the impression that he could direct without being present on site. While Scorsese relied extensively on his storyboards, he also showed adaptability when confronted with unexpected obstacles during the limited filming timeline.

Furthermore, Hitchcock’s impact on Scorsese’s visual style is visible in his concentration on seemingly insignificant things throughout the picture, imbuing them with symbolic significance, similar to Hitchcock’s treatment of objects in his works. Scorsese’s use of close-ups of hands reaching for objects like Kiki’s Plaster of Paris bagel, the elusive $20 money, or a finger on a door buzzer echoes Hitchcock’s tactic of emphasizing basic items to elicit anxiety and heighten the viewer’s impression of irrational mistrust and fixation.

Crucial Editing

Scorsese’s effort to reassert his creative spirit is visible throughout the picture, as seen by its numerous visual flourishes and obvious cinephilia. The film honors not only Hitchcock but also other directors such as Fritz Lang, Mario Bava, and Allan Dwan, demonstrating Scorsese’s deep passion for cinema history. Thelma Schoonmaker’s editing is crucial, using a slew of insert shots to create a dissociative mood and sustain a relentless tempo.

The ensemble cast shines in their different roles, each controlling their area of SoHo under Scorsese’s direction, while Howard Shore’s austere and ominous score and eclectic soundtrack add to the film’s atmospheric environment. By setting the action in the precise location of SoHo, Scorsese effectively uses the neighborhood as a character in and of itself, capturing its bustling daytime vitality and changing it into a deserted and frightening background for the film’s nightly journey.

It’s acceptable if some viewers don’t find humor in Paul’s horrific trek through SoHo; in fact, one could imagine a moviegoer seeing it as an awful nightmare, full of tension and devoid of levity. However, ambivalence for Scorsese’s films is not uncommon, as seen by how his works were received throughout the 1980s. Take, for example, The King of Comedy, a gloomy depiction of an ambitious entertainer’s desperate efforts to acquire recognition that was initially deemed too cynical and unpleasant to be funny. Similarly, After Hours offers laughing at the protagonist’s misfortunes, but the intense and claustrophobic nature of Paul’s situation may make the humor unnoticeable to some, resulting in palpable anxiety.

Paul’s persistent succession of uncomfortable interactions represents not only the director’s damaged mind but also a glimpse of New York City’s gentrification and growing socioeconomic inequities. In the 1980s, Manhattan had an inflow of yuppies, resulting in skyrocketing rents and the relocation of artists and the working class to the city’s outskirts. Today, districts like SoHo have seen tremendous shifts, from bleak enclaves to thriving centers of trade and culture. Paul’s naivety about SoHo highlights his sheltered existence, allowing Scorsese, a native New Yorker, to provide a unique view of his homeland through the eyes of an outsider.

Capturing Beauty Amidst Mayhem

While After Hours depicts outsider characters, such as punks and leather-clad folks, it avoids sensationalizing them for shock value. Instead, the film captures moments of actual beauty and humanity in the middle of mayhem, such as a tender scene of a young couple dancing to doo-wop music while Paul stays oblivious to the love tableau developing behind him, capturing his detachment from the world he badly wants to escape.

When Gail spots a news clipping plastered to Paul’s arm, she begins to read it aloud, revealing a terrible episode in which a man was mercilessly torn limb from limb by an enraged mob in Manhattan’s affluent SoHo neighborhood. The victim’s name remains unknown due to the lack of any form of identification in his shredded clothing, which is exacerbated by the severe damage to his face. The unsettling revelation begs the question, may Paul suffer a similar fate? As suspicious neighbors question him about the rash of burglaries affecting the neighborhood, Julie, in an act of vengeance, paints his face on a wanted poster. When Gail discovers it, she enlists the help of her neighborhood watch, converting the picture into a suspenseful Wrong Man thriller reminiscent of Hitchcock’s filmography. In such a new narrative trajectory, Paul takes on the role of protagonists such as Cary Grant’s character in North by Northwest or Robert Cummings’ character in Saboteur, while Howard Shore’s evocative score, with its winding and kaleidoscopic motifs, heightens the audience’s apprehension like the ticking of the clock. In addition, Scorsese’s direction is reminiscent of Lang’s M, particularly in moments depicting Paul’s desperate run from the unrelenting pursuit of the neighborhood watch mob, whose headlights illuminate the darkness of the city streets, creating a sense of terror and foreboding.

While After Hours achieved Scorsese’s goal of reinvigorating his creative energy and garnered him the prestigious Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival, its overall reaction was mixed, and it remained relatively unknown when it was first released. However, it has developed a devoted fanbase and has become a cult classic. Fans of the film passionately advocate for its benefits. The lasting affection for the film is palpable which pays homage to the film through a storyline involving a character’s nocturnal odyssey complete with missing keys, clandestine nightclubs, and enigmatic doorkeepers. In the milieu represented, Paul surpasses the typical role of the audience surrogate or the bourgeois invader enjoying a brief venture into the urban underworld; rather, amidst the quirky people of downtown Manhattan, he emerges as the outsider, the aberrant character.

Some viewers may perceive the moment of irony at the end of the film to be too little to entirely ease the worry that has built up throughout the film. Despite Scorsese’s rigorous planning reminiscent of Hitchcock, he and the producers agreed that Minion’s original denouement was unacceptable. Minion’s version involved Paul buying ice cream for June and then returning to her basement, where the story abruptly ended. Scorsese shared his thoughts, saying, “I felt something was missing.” Minion proposed an alternate ending infused with surreal elements present in the film: Paul would evade the neighborhood watch by seeking refuge in June’s womb, similar to a scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and would then be symbolically reborn in the cold city streets, running home to safety. Despite its bizarre allure, the notion was eventually abandoned.

Comedic Catholicism

At the time, British filmmaker Michael Powell, who was romantically linked with Scorsese’s editor Schoonmaker (they married the next year), watched the incomplete picture with Scorsese’s father. They observed a finale in which Cheech and Chong disappear into the distance, leaving Paul imprisoned in June’s sculpture in their van. Powell and Scorsese’s father thought the current ending was not only disappointing but also irritating, given the audience’s shared pain with Paul throughout the film. Powell suggested that Paul tumble out of the van and, in a genuinely Kafkaesque twist, return to work to begin another day. After showing an unfinished edit to filmmakers such as Terry Gilliam and Steven Spielberg, Scorsese gained unanimous agreement that Paul’s fate should include falling out of the van and returning to work. With the denouement, Scorsese returns the audience to the safe, if boring, confines of a word processor’s workplace, an ending that is well received.

However, unlike several of Scorsese’s future films—such as Goodfellas, Casino, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Irishman, and Killers of the Flower Moon, After Hours is frequently absent from conversations about his work. The oversight is unjustified; the filmmaker describes the film as an opportunity to “get myself back in shape,” to “work out,” but it is more than just a stylistic exercise. While usually amusing, it also functions as a cri de coeur, signifying one of Scorsese’s most personal works. In his book Martin Scorsese: A Retrospective, Tom Shone writes that it depicts the filmmaker “at his most comically Catholic,” as evidenced by a scene in which Paul, on his knees in the street, beseeches an uncaring God. The image’s humor connects because it is honest. The film is more than just an oddity; it aggressively expresses the artist’s voice with clarity and resonance.

Scorsese completed the picture four days after the intended deadline and overspent the budget by one million dollars; yet, the production was classified as low-budget, and the subsequent box-office performance resulted in a profit. Following After Hours, the director worked on several other projects that ranged from passion projects to director-for-hire assignments, including The Color of Money, the Academy Award-winning sequel to Robert Rossen’s The Hustler, starring Paul Newman; Mirror, Mirror, an episode of the Spielberg-produced television series Amazing Stories, and Michael Jackson’s music video Bad. He saw each venture as a test of his talent and versatility across several visual mediums.

Finally, in 1987, Universal Studios produced Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, a film that was both commercially successful and controversial. Although After Hours is rarely regarded as one of Scorsese’s finest films, it remains his most unreserved stylistic experiment—an exemplar of what has been described as “pure filmmaking.” Only via the terrible setbacks experienced during The Last Temptation of Christ could the film develop, functioning as a response to Scorsese’s feelings of despair, disappointment, and exasperation—his frantic want to engage in filmmaking, quickly. While he may have started on the project solely to keep himself occupied, one cannot ignore the substantial transference from director to screen, making it a highly personal cathartic work.

To categorize After Hours solely as a dark comedy or an unconventional addition to Scorsese’s oeuvre ignores the film’s deeply ingrained paranoid ambiance and the director’s intimate, urgent desire to pour every ounce of himself into a single film after his labor on the aborted adaptation of The Last Temptation of Christ. Despite not being the origin of the story, it never feels cold or impersonal; instead, it emanates energy and emotion. It’s as if Scorsese is experiencing a catharsis, with his raw and unvarnished anger spilling onto the screen through Paul’s never-ending struggle. What’s more intimate than that? Scorsese’s meticulous orchestration of Paul’s increasingly traumatic night results in a grueling yet hilarious viewing experience that also contains a certain awe, as the director uses every stylistic technique at his disposal to enhance the storyline.

Ballhaus’ constantly moving camera moves through each scene with feverish speed, Schoonmaker’s editing generates a relentless tempo, and both the audience and Paul are left perplexed by the maelstrom of events unfolding before them. However, in After Hours, these questions are left unaddressed, moving us from a search for knowledge to a desperate flight for safety. It encapsulates Scorsese’s fundamental mastery of the medium like no other picture in his arsenal, with its purportedly plain storyline and emphasis on style.


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