Archive for January, 2010|Monthly archive page

After Hours

In Film on January 3, 2010 at 1:57 am

“I just wanted to leave my apartment – maybe meet a nice girl. And now I’ve gotta to die for it!”

– Paul Hackett

I can relate to After Hours.  In what is perhaps Martin Scorsese’s most under-valued film, this comedic nightmare speaks volumes of what lengths a single man will go to, just to meet a girl. I’ve been there. I’ve felt that. And while I have never gone through the same hell that Paul Hackett (played by Griffin Dunne) endures on his lonesome night in SoHo, I have the feeling that he would probably do it all over again if he met another woman.

Released in 1985, After Hours marked a departure in style and budget for Martin Scorsese. Coming down from the box-office bust of The King of Comedy and the failure of getting The Last Temptation of Christ off the ground, Joseph Minion’s script for After Hours (originally titled “Lies” and later “A Night In Soho”) was first brought to the director by the film’s star (and producer) Griffin Dunne and his producing partner Amy Robinson (who previously co-starred in Scorsese’s Mean Streets). Scorsese needed something to expel his frustration after the failure of getting Last Temptation green lit, and he seems to revel in torturing Paul Hackett.

The film has a simple premise; A man looking for some excitement away from his lonely office job meets a girl in a coffee shop, goes out with her and his night goes from bad to worse. Scorsese, Director of Photography Michael Ballhaus and editor Thelma Schoonmaker infuse the film with a breathless fervor; watching our doomed hero stumble from one fatal blonde to the next. And like most of Scorsese’s films, the soundtrack is a wild and intricate piece of the puzzle; a steady mix of Doo Wop, Bach and Joni Mitchell – topped off by  Rosemary Clooney’s “Is That All There Is?” (a great scene). Unfortunately, a soundtrack for the film was never released.

For the film’s original music, Scorsese called upon Canadian musician Howard Shore. By this time, Shore was perhaps best known as the Musical Director of Saturday Night Live during the Ackroyd-Belushi years. He had however,  just begun his collaboration with Director David Cronenberg, starting with The Brood in 1979, followed by Scanners in 1981 and Videodrome in 1983. While The Brood featured an orchestral score, both Scanners and Videodrome (like After Hours) were synthesizer based.

It was Shore’s music for Videodrome that more than likely caught the ears of Scorsese and with a growing trend to have synth film scores, Scorsese was no doubt looking to give his new film an edge over his earlier work. This was, after all, the first time the director had worked with a composer since teaming with Bernard Herrmann on Taxi Driver in 1976, and the two soundtracks for these films could not be any more different. (With synth soundtracks being dominated by Tangerine Dream, Scorsese’s choice of Shore suggest that he was looking for something different.)

For After Hours, Shore’s music brings a nocturnal and alien, almost otherworldly quality to Paul Hackett’s late night excursion. The music is truly his soundtrack, and Shore’s “clicking stop watch” motif is a deadening cue that signals time may be running out for Paul. Instead of using music to heighten the tension (and I do mean tension), Shore’s music is often used for the film’s more quiet moments as seen here in this morbidly sensual scene.

After Hours was a creative triumph for Scorsese. While the film met with luke warm reception at the box office, the film was praised by Roger Ebert and won Best Director for Scorsese at The Cannes Film Festival. The film gave him the boost he needed. Following After Hours, Scorsese directed The Color of Money next and finallyThe Last Temptation of Christ in 1988.

Howard Shore would continue a steady career scoring a range of comedies, thrillers and dramas – including Big (1988), The Silence of the Lambs (1990), Ed Wood (1994) and Seven (1995) . He seemed an unlikely choice to helm the music for Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings Trilogy , but his work earned him three Oscars and no doubt, a new legion of fans.

Following his first score for Middle Earth, Shore and Scorsese reunited 17 years later. When Elmer Bernstein’s music for Gangs of New York was rejected in 2002, Shore stepped up to the plate and has since scored two of Scorsese’s films following, including The Aviator and The Departed.

Griffin Dunne (left) and Martin Scorsese

In October of 2009, Shore released the album “Collector’s Edition Vol. 1”. It contains original compositions, a track from the Diane Keaton documentary Heaven and four selections from After Hours, which culminate to just over 11 minutes of music from the film.

It’s the perfect music to kick-off this series of unreleased music by Shore (more volumes are in the works) and while an old vinyl soundtrack might look good on my record shelf, this is a great addition for film score completests – or just your average Computer Programmer fleeing for his life.