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'After Hours': Watch a Documentary About Martin Scorsese's Forgotten 'Indie'

06.4.13 @ 9:46PM Tags : , ,

PosterIn 1983, Martin Scorsese was planning on directing The Last Temptation of Christ, but when outside forces intervened, he made a relatively obscure entry in his filmography, one with an indie spirit that showed Hollywood he had the will to go back to his roots and return to the “mean streets” of New York City, specifically a pre-gentrification Soho. Click below to watch a great documentary on how Scorsese made one of the oddest entries in his filmography, the little known surrealist comedy/nightmare, After Hours.

After Hours is one of those movies that most people have never heard of, but, if they have, possess an abiding affection for (yours truly included). Written by Joseph Minion, the film cost only 4.5 million dollars (a pittance for a major movie) and generally flew under the radar, though it did get positive reviews, garnering four stars from Roger Ebert:

This is the work of a master filmmaker who controls his effects so skillfully that I was drained by this film – so emotionally depleted that there was a moment, two-thirds of the way through, when I wondered if maybe I should leave the theater and gather my thoughts and come back later for the rest of the “comedy.”

Unlike his previous film, The King of Comedy, which used a flat lighting style to reflect the TV world in which it was set, After Hours is a highly stylized, kinetic experience:

Before getting to the documentary, let’s take a journey through Martin Scorsese’s Manhattan, circa 1985:

The film begins with Griffin Dunne (a wonderful and underrated actor) as Paul Hackett, instructing Bronson Pinchot in the mundanities of word processing in their midtown office:

That night, he meets cute with Marcy Franklin (Rosanna Arquette) at a diner (bonding over a love of Henry Miller) and decides to head downtown for a date that he will never forget. After losing his last $20 when it flies out the window of his cab:

…he finds himself in the loft of artist Kiki Bridges (Linda Fiorentino), a sultry sculptress who lives with Marcy, but doesn’t seem to think much of her. When Marcy unexpectedly commits suicide, a (very) black comedy of errors ensues as Paul wanders around Soho, trying to get home:

Mistaken for a cat burglar and pursued by a mob of downtown denizens out for blood, (in Scorsese’s Soho, there are no cops to save you) he takes refuge in a punk club, trying to find Kiki and prove his innocence: 

He ends up as a sculpture himself (it’s a long story), trapped in plaster, stolen by Cheech and Chong (yes, Cheech and Chong) and falling out of a van when it hits a pothole, right back in front of his office:

After Hours really must be seen to be believed, and stands as arguably Scorsese’s weirdest film. It also possesses an indie spirit that showed he was capable of turning out big-budget spectacles as well as bizarre little trips into the dark side of New York. After Hours is a film that could not plausibly be set today, since most of Paul’s travails could easily be solved in 2013 by cell phones, credit cards, and ATMs. But in 1985, he was up a creek.

The film feels like a gritty indie, shot entirely on location, with no special effects other than in-camera fast motion, and relying on acting, lighting, and mood to create a film unlike any other.

Check out this fascinating half-hour documentary on the making of the film, featuring deleted scenes:

Have you seen After Hours? What lessons do you think an indie filmmaker could learn from Scorsese?



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  • One of the greatest indeed, thanks for reminding everyone. Even though “Bringing Out the Dead” had a bigger price tag, that’s also a neglected work in the Scorsese canon, and arguably among his best — even though Nicholas Cage has since been widely maligned; and the film was widely underestimated for its theological content (people thought it was just chronicling an ambulance driver’s career). Martin Scorsese’s genius really shines best in these modest “indie” films that hearken back to the simplicity of “Mean Streets.”

  • Forgotten?
    In America, anything that doesn’t make money is Tagged “forgotten”.
    It happens to be one of my favorite Scorsese.
    (Can you keep a straight face when Rosana Arquette says “Surrender Dorothy”?)
    And one of my favorite 80′s film.

  • Another forgotten Scorsese flick – King of Comedy.

  • I saw the movie way back then … I didn’t think it was that weird either … a nice little flick …

    Griffin Dunne has been more of a producer/director than an actor over the last 30 years or so …

    the “King of Comedy” is a level above, IMO … “My name is Rupert Pupkin. I was born in Clifton, New Jersey, which at the time was not a criminal offense” … timeless …

    • Justin Morrow on 06.5.13 @ 12:25PM

      Love King of Comedy, gotta say I love this a little more. I mentioned it in the beginning, those two were his strangest movies, back to back little masterpieces.

    • Justin Morrow on 06.5.13 @ 12:28PM

      Yeah, and Griffin Dunne is the late Dominick Dunne’s son, the society writer who covered lots of big trials for Vanity Fair. I wish he would act more! I agree, the King of Comedy is amazing, but if I had to choose, I would go for this one…definitely his two weirdest back to back movies, though. Thanks for reading!

    • Justin Morrow on 06.5.13 @ 12:30PM

      Yeah, Griffin Dunne is also Dominick Dunne’s son, the late society writer who covered all those notorious trials. I think he should act more. I agree love, love The King of Comedy, but I think I like After Hours a little more. Definitely his two weirdest back to back films, and two of my favorites. Thanks for reading!

  • Henrik Othman on 06.5.13 @ 12:40AM

    Not at all forgotten – one of my favourite Scorsese films!
    Thank yoiu fore this interesting post!

  • Fresno Bob on 06.5.13 @ 6:31AM

    “little known”?

    Little known to who? If you admire Scorsese, then you’ve seen it. That’s all there is to it.

    • Justin Morrow on 06.5.13 @ 12:24PM

      What I meant was, little known to people who don’t read this blog, i.e. non-film people. You’d be amazed the number of blank looks when I mention this movie. Then I show it to them, and they’re converts for life!

  • This movie’s freakin golden

  • King of Comedy is my favorite Scorsese. After Hours is a lot of fun though!

  • Excellent movie, one of my top ten. Thanks for the post Justin

  • Thanks for reminding me about this film. I actually saw it in the theater when it came out. I didn’t know anything about it but a firend suggested we go. It was one of the strangest but most fantastic movies. I haven’t thought about it in years. Talk about a fantastic cast of actors and a master filmmaker at work. This is a delightful film that you should definitely see if you haven’t.

  • For me, After Hours was like the Citizen Kane for indie film, which was just about to take off. It was so inspiring.
    I remember sneaking in to see it over and over again. Then came Spike Lee, and then Soderbergh. You still needed a crew to make a movie then, so we could start our careers being mentored by experienced film techs.

    Thanks for reminding us of that sublime moment of the late 20th century.

  • stefan verna on 06.7.13 @ 9:09PM

    Great dig, love that film. this film has so much soul. great inspiration to watch this doc.


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