12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
The essence of black humour,
This review is from: After Hours [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
This is by far my favourite film. If I'd written the script for it, I'd die happy.
I love the symmetry of its structure. It starts as Paul leaves his tedious job at the end of the day and ends as he fetches up at the office again the morning. We are therefore given two glimpses of Paul's ordinary daily life, but in between the film plunges us into a weird dreamlike hinterland. This involves curious funny/sad encounters that make no sense on a rational level but are perfectly in keeping with the dream world - that might be a reflection of Paul's own subconscious desires as much as the reality of night-time New York - the film so stunningly creates.
It's also perfectly balanced on the divide between humour and the genuinely disturbing. It is a wildly funny film, with almost every scene based on some completely absurd premise. For instance, Paul unties Kiki, thinking that he is rescuing her, only to find that he's just interrupted a bondage session with her Teutonic lover, Horst ('That was rude, Paul. You really should be ashamed of yourself'). But this humour comes out of disturbed and alienated lives, and we're never allowed to forget that. The scene where Marcy tells Paul about her husband's Wizard of Oz fixation ('He just couldn't stop. He just couldn't stop. He just couldn't stop') is hilarious, but there's something about the manic intensity with which she tells the story that is quite unsettling - and this uncomfortable mix of humour and the genuinely disturbing is pursued mercilessly throughout the film.
Ultimately, it's a very Kafkaesque movie (one of the scenes even uses dialogue from a Kafka novel) - it creates a labyrinth in which Paul is thwarted at every turn by people whose motivations are never entirely clear and by situations that remain inscrutable.
Some have criticised After Hours on the basis that the sequence of encounters Paul is subjected to are not realistic - too contrived and coincidental. I think this is missing the point - it's a bit like saying that most court cases are not conducted in the way that the case against Josef K in Kafka's 'The Trial' is conducted. The point is that these encounters are not realistic within the context of ordinary life, but they are in keeping with the very defined frame of reference of the film & they are designed (i.e. exaggerated) in order to bring us face to face with the illogicality of the world and the illogicality of our subconscious desires. The hinterland Paul wanders through is as much a dreamscape as reality & the logic of the encounters he's involved in is largely dream-logic.