Like everyone else I’m sure, I have a few favorite films that I like to watch every couple of years. American filmmaker Martin Scorcese is behind some of my choices. When going through the Scorcese canon, a less than obvious choice is After Hours (1985). This is one of those bizarre films that works because it’s so unlike most other films. It’s also a wonderful piece of black comedy, something we see successfully done in British cinema all the time, but a genre that almost always fails with American films.

After Hours tells the story of Paul Hackett (coolest film name ever) played by Griffin Dunne. Paul Hackett is having the worst night of his life. Trying to make his way home from Soho, he faces a series of maddingly surreal and dangerous misadventures that make his pointless journey rather “Kafkaesque.” Scorcese actually called this film “an exercise completely in style.”

Layman’s film critic, Roger Ebert, who has written a book on the work of Scorcese, is also a fan of After Hours. In  the Great Films section of his website he includes his take on this sometimes forgotten masterpiece. He describes this film as something approaching “pure filmmaking.” He says “it’s a nearly flawless example of — itself. It lacks, as nearly as I can determine, a lesson or message.” Many viewers have found the level of suspense in After Hours to be unbearbale. Ebert explains that while the film “is technically a comedy [it] plays like a satanic version of the classic Hitchcock plot formula.” Ebert has always been better at exlaining things than describing them.

The film should be available from most major movie outlets. You can read what Roger Ebert has to say about it in his review The time is three a.m. Do you know where your sanity is?

For me the review was worth reading for the quotable:

What happens to Paul Hackett is like what happens to Buster Keaton: just one damned thing after another.

That may not necessarily describe my life, but it’s a cool way to see my name used in print.