Watch This Essay on 'After Hours,' Scorsese's 'Forgotten' Screwball Nightmare

After Hours Martin Scorcese

After the startlingly original Raging Bull, a film that lived up to its title and has been voted the best (and, to my mind, most indie-spirited) Hollywood film of the 1980s, Martin Scorsese took a brief detour into uncharted territory with his next two offerings. In 1985, the brief, hilarious and absurd After Hours focused on one night in the life of Paul Hackett, an office drone from the Upper East Side (in the film, his character lives on my childhood street, which is fascinating... to me) as he pursues Rosanna Arquette. And whereas Raging Bull had the epic scope of a Tolstoy novel, After Hours was like a short story by Kafka. When he impulsively takes a cab to SoHo in pursuit of Arquette, Dunne's fish-out-of-water yuppie is entering a parallel universe, which was not too far from the reality of the differences between uptown and down in the 80s. 

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"There is manic energy in the air, a dramatic gravity, an aura of meaningfulness—but these are effects given more by the hyper-restless camera, by the insistent cutting to insert details, by the music (here composed by Cronenberg’s regular collaborator, Howard Shore), by the overlapping voices and noises (it’s a screwball soundscape where nobody much listens to anybody else)"

Instead of romance, what Hackett finds is Linda Fiorentino in an unforgettable turn as the artist Kiki Bridges; suicide; unstable waitresses from the wrong decade; paranoia in the streets; a cat burglar on the loose; and a punk rock club on Mohawk Night (don't ask.) Oh, and Cheech and Chong and Bronson Pinchot. In this video, made by Adrian Martin & Cristina Álvarez López for MUBI Notebook, they pull back the curtain and show, among other insights, that while the film is ostensibly about a night out, it's really about traps, and how the deserted open spaces can function as a maze, built to confine and stymy Dunne with opaque rules, or just plain absurdity (cf. "Before the Law" and "The Problem of Our Laws," two of Kafka's short parables). This disorientation applies to the audience just as much to Dunne; it's a film about New York, alienation, mistaken identity, and randomness, though not necessarily in that order. It's also one of Scorsese's funniest films, (funnier, I would argue, than its immediate predecessor, 1983's surreal The King of Comedy.) What did you think about this video essay — and the film that inspired it?     

Your Comment


Saw this movie on cable when I was probably 10 and I loved it, thought it was hilarious but couldn't remember the title for the life of me. It wasn't until about ten years later when I rediscovered it, glad I did. This essay is another great reminder to revisit this forgotten treasure.

November 29, 2014 at 10:38PM

Jerry Anderson

I love both After Hours and King of Comedy. Both are nearly as weird as almost any David Lynch film and very funny. It should be noted that After Hours was the subject of a plagiarism lawsuit which seems to have been settled. The first 30 minutes of the script is basically verbatim telling of a monologue by a performer and writer named Joe Frank.

November 30, 2014 at 10:38AM

William Streeter

Here is how to write a case study You should have a proper structure!

April 26, 2019 at 1:14AM, Edited April 26, 1:14AM


Sure, I will watch this video. I think it will be awesome. You can check my gender role essay. I hope you will like it.

January 18, 2020 at 10:15AM, Edited January 18, 10:15AM