Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman was on in cinemas in the UK and US in November and is now on Netflix internationally. So Tripwire set its editor-in-chief Joel Meadows and senior editor Andrew Colman the mammoth task of watching and reviewing all of his films. Next up is 1985’s curio After Hours, reviewed by Andrew Colman…
Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Griffin Dunne, Rosanna Arquette, Verna Bloom, Terri Garr
After his deeply personal project The Last Temptation of Christ disappeared temporarily into development hell, Scorsese, who had ridden a wave of unparalleled critical acclaim for the better part of a decade (bar one dud) was suddenly persona non grata with the big studios. As a director with a resolutely indie heart, his productions were always deemed a risk, and although he didn’t quite have the range of Kubrick, he was always capable of adapting when times were difficult. Hence the curate’s egg that is After Hours, a film that practically defies genre, despite being set in downtown New York. As with previous effort The King of Comedy, After Hours had no connection with the Italian American experience, relying like its predecessor on black humour and urban disconnection.
Following the somewhat skewed trajectory of Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne), an office drone who strays into New York’s SoHo district after work, the film sees our protagonist meet Marcy Franklin (Rosanna Arquette) in a local café. After a brief chat they arrange to meet in her apartment, on his pretext of buying a sculpture from her flatmate Kiki (Linda Fiorentino). On the way to her place he loses his cab money, inconveniently leaving him penniless. After a short stay in Marcy’s flat, we learn that Kiki, who makes plaster cast figures of embalmed men, is decidedly strange, but not as much as Marcy, who may have experienced serious trauma. After surreptitiously leaving her flat, Paul proceeds to engage with a labyrinth of bolted doors, mistaken identities, mousetraps, and more liaisons with women (Teri Garr, Catherine O’Hara) who at first seek to aid him but quickly become antagonistic and vengeful. After Marcy apparently commits suicide, he does a deal for some money with barman Tom Schorr (John Heard) who, we find out later, was her boyfriend. With a growing mob, (who believe him to be guilty of murder and responsible for a spate of burglaries in the area), keen on killing him, Paul finds refuge in a nightclub where yet another intimidating woman (Verna Bloom) seals him in plaster in order to evade detection by the mob. Unable to move or speak, he is then stolen by the real burglars (Cheech and Chong) and unwittingly dropped back at his office as dawn breaks. He then returns to his desk, back where he started.
Needless to say, the movie draws strongly on Kafka, as well as Schnitzler’s Traumnovelle, mapping the helplessness and terror of hapless victim Paul. His constant inability to escape the panoply of dead ends and malefactors evoke a lurid paranoia that is quite immersive, to an extent echoing Taxi Driver. Granted, After Hours inhabits a much internalised hell compared to the gritty night world of Travis Bickle, plus there are humorous moments. Griffin Dunne’s lead is at the mercy of several predatory women, his anxiety and desperation ever more palpable as he is belittled and humiliated by each of them, and yet he keeps fleeing, forever scapegoated and marked. In the end what saves him is literal imprisonment by the most amiable of the female cast, while he is freed by the most unlikely of saviours, the burglars.
It’s an out-of-kilter entry in the Scorsese filmography, as it relies on contrivance, suspension of disbelief and even whimsy. It is a slight film after the heavyweight Raging Bull and King of Comedy, which recalls earlier, less assured works – as a cross between surreal noir and screwball comedy, this doesn’t seem that much like a Scorsese film, even though it does play and, at ninety-three minutes, doesn’t outstay its welcome. This and the next movie, 1986’s Color of Money, are in retrospect regressive, marking time affairs, although After Hours is certainly the better picture. Yes, there are plot holes and occasionally cringe worthy dialogue, but as an exercise in Twilight Zone fantasy, it is beguilingly ambiguous and well-crafted. In certain ways it is reminiscent of that classic series, as all the violence is implied or off screen and nothing is what it initially seems to be. Definitely worth a look.
Here’s the film’s trailer
Here’s the other Month Of Marty reviews so far as well