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Griffin Dunne and Rosanna Arquette in AFTER HOURS

After Hours is commonly known as a ‘forgotten’ Martin Scorsese movie but I’ve read about it so often I was very keen on checking it out. And now I have. And I finally understand what all the hype is about.

This film highlights — and overcomes — the difficulty of staging events over the duration of a single night. Per force, because editing out large chunks of time alone cannot move the narrative forward, it is essential to have ‘interesting’ things happen to the central character. This begins with Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne), a computer programmer, meeting a girl named Marcy (Rosanna Arquette) while he is in a diner minding his own business, reading ‘Tropic of Cancer’ by Henry Miller. Marcy gives him her number and later that night Paul calls her. Before the night ends we meet Marcy’s clothing-optional sculptor friend Kiki (Linda Fiorentino), a waitress named Julie (Teri Garr), a bartender named Tom (John Heard), an ice cream truck driver named Gail (Catherine O’Hara), and burglars Pepe (Tommy Chong) & Neil (Cheech Marin). Paul falls afoul of a cab driver, several women, an entire neighbourhood that mistakes him for the burglar, patrons of an underground nightclub, the bartender of that same nightclub, and a sculptor who isn’t Kiki.

The experience of watching this movie is as tense as watching a horror movie. The screenplay by Joseph Minion was–according to IMDB–his thesis for Columbia Film School, and it is quite the ride. Word on the Internet is that Scorsese started filming the movie without having an ending nailed down, and the one that finally makes it into the final cut is one that was suggested by British director Michael Powell. It is not the ending this movie promises for most of its run-time but it’s not an unwelcome ending either. The way things have been going for poor Paul Hackett for most of this movie, I can say I was just glad that it ended. Because the sense of unease that the movie delivered all throughout was so thorough that I had bad dreams after watching it. This has happened only twice before: after I watched Inception — that movie messed up my sleep cycle itself, and after I watched Requiem for a Dream. And this is why Mr. Scorsese is considered a modern master: he set out to make a movie that was “all style,” and ended up with a cult classic that will haunt our dreams.