After Hours: Martin Scorsese's A Series of Unfortunate Events (Criterion 4K/Blu-ray)
When most people think of or discuss the great Martin Scorsese, it usually involves his big, popular projects like "Goodfellas," "Raging Bull," "Taxi Driver," or more recent works like "Hugo" or "The Irishman." One of his more obscure (at least to the non-film buffs) works that doesn't get talked about as much is a very well-received little dark comedy from 1985 called "After Hours" (which he had actually made right after another dark comedy, "The Kings of Comedy"). It's a film I saw many years ago, and sort of shrugged off as being a forgettable work from the master filmmaker, but now the film is being given the prestigious Criterion treatment, so it's time to go back for a revisit to see if there is indeed something more to this little film that hadn't left much impact on that initial viewing.
As the film opens, we meet Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne), a computer programmer in New York City. On a night like any other, he goes out for a quiet dinner and ends up meeting Marcy Franklin (Rosanna Arquette). She tells him that she lives with a sculptor named Kiki (Linda Fiorintino), who makes and sells paperweights, ultimately leaving Paul her number before leaving. Later that night, he calls and gets invited over, with Paul having a slight monetary snafu with the taxi along the way. Paul arrives at the apartment, and things immediately start to get a little strange, with Kiki having him help with a sculpture, and subsequent peculiarities with Marcy, all of which causes him to sneak out. However, what should be a simple trip back home ends up turning into the night from hell as one mishap after another starts to occur.
As mentioned, "After Hours" is one of those Scorsese films that doesn't get mentioned nearly as much as his other, more famous works, and yet, it received a fair amount of praise, with critics highlighting the film's black humor and strangeness. My vague recollection from when I saw it several years ago was that the storyline got more and more unbelievable as it went along, compounding coincidences together until you were simply left expecting yet another silly thing to happen. In this sense, it becomes a little easier to see why the film didn't really leave much of an impact.
On a second viewing, the absurdity of the situation didn't feel like too much of a hindrance this time, especially remembering that its believability factor was rather low. However, what really stuck out this time was how it more so plays out like a series of unfortunate events, events that are, for the most part, somewhat mundane and not particularly compelling. Screenwriter Joseph Minion tries to spice things up by throwing in a couple of plot points that should kick things into high gear, but it just never gets there, seeming satisfied to stay at a mostly low level of energy as this night of coincidences rolls on.
That's not to say that the film isn't compelling at all. It does become a mildly-amusing guessing game as to what could possibly happen to poor Paul next, and Griffin Dunne does a fine job of bringing out all the frustration, aggravation, and terror of the character as he goes through his unending nightmare, but at the end of these 97 minutes you come to realize that there simply isn't that much substance there among the increasingly unlikely events (which also points back to its somewhat low impact).
In the end, it's certainly not a bad film. There just isn't a whole lot here to see that's particularly gripping or engaging. It has its moments, but not nearly enough to get it to the point of being the zany, high-energy dark comedy that it's trying to be. Still, a lot of people do generally like the film, and it's from a very interesting & different period in Scorsese's career, but there's a reason that it's not mentioned that often or regularly listed as one of his best efforts. Ultimately the best way it can be described is as a curio in the great director's stunning career, a career that still continues to flourish nearly 40 years later.
This new Criterion edition of "After Hours" features the film on both 4K (2160p) and Blu-ray (1080p) in 1.85:1 transfers of outstanding quality. Taking place almost entirely at night, this can be a pretty dark film at times, but the picture remains perfectly sharp and clear throughout the entire 97-minute runtime. Likewise, the uncompressed monaural soundtrack is marvelous, giving you the dialogue and Howard Shore's score in excellent quality. Overall, in typical Criterion fashion, they've done a brilliant job cleaning up yet another classic.
Commentary Track with director Martin Scorsese, actor-producer Griffin Dunne, producer Amy Ryan, director of photography Michael Ballhaus, and editor Thelma Schoomaker
Author Fran Lebowitz Interviews Martin Scorsese (20 Minutes)
Filming For Your Life: Making After Hours (19 Minutes)
The Look of After Hours (18 Minutes)
Deleted Scenes (7 Scenes, 8 Minutes)
It may not look like this edition comes with a lot of extras, but in these five supplements are some really outstanding goodies, including a packed commentary, a fascinating interview with Scorsese, an intriguing "making of," and a decent portion of deleted sequences. Definitely plenty here to satisfy any fan of the film.
Martin Scorsese's "After Hours" contains a fine lead performance from Griffin Dunne as a man going through a nightmare of seemingly-endless bad luck, and the premise does offer a mildly amusing game of "what could possibly happen next," but the series of unfortunate events offers nothing particularly substantial or compelling, ultimately making this one of the master filmmaker's more forgettable efforts.
Now available on Criterion 4K/Blu-ray.
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