Mr/Dr Soderbergh @ 2013-12-07

I wanted to watch something fun, so I ordered up AFTER HOURS on Warner Instant Archive. It said it was in HD but the image was somewhere between SD and radio, although to be fair, I doubt the film has been remastered in a very long time. In fact, my SD DVD from the Scorsese box from years ago was at least three frames out of sync, so the fact this wasn’t made me feel like I was way ahead.

I saw this film half a dozen times at the Bon Marche Mall cinema in Baton Rouge when it was in its initial release, and it was a huge inspiration to me. Looking at it now, I can see why: the things that are great about it don’t/didn’t have anything to do with having a lot of money (Catherine O’Hara trying to confuse Griffin Dunne while he attempts to remember a phone number), so it seemed within reach to an aspiring young filmmaker growing up in a suburban subdivison. Sure, there’s plenty of the patented Scorsese formal flourishes, but nothing that can’t be achieved with a standard Fisher dolly, and that’s why it all seems possible; it’s humor, insight, style, and impact are built out of a series of brilliantly constructed small things (unless I’m mistaken, Scorsese hasn’t made a cheaper dramatic feature since).

And what a great screenplay. What the fuck happened to Joseph Minion? He also wrote VAMPIRE’S KISS, which is worth watching just for the scenes between Nicolas Cage and Maria Conchita Alonzo (AM I GETTING THROUGH TO YOU, ALMA?), and then I don’t know what happened to him. And I’m not going to troll the Internet to find out. The way information is doled out in this film is fucking masterful, an absolute clinic in implication and inference—none of the key events that drive the story forward and fuck with the main character occur onscreen—and the math of plotting is absolutely airtight. The character work and dialogue are always funny and real, and then there’s shit like Griffin Dunne going to the bathroom and seeing the graffiti of the shark biting a guy’s dick to add spice.

Every member of the cast delivers stellar comic work, but special credit has to go to Griffin Dunne because he’s in every scene and always finds a vocal cadence that keeps you from seeing the jokes coming, and he has brilliantly reactive eyes and great physical control. And remember when actors didn’t have to be perfectly groomed or have capped teeth? I do. And I miss them. People used to look normal in movies. People used to look normal in life. Not anymore. But what’s normal? Am I defining natural as normal? Maybe. But lots of people are doing things to themselves now. I got braces as an adult to straighten my teeth, so what the fuck do I know?