Out of hours | Martin Scorsese and that crazy journey in the Kafkaesque Soho

ROME – Despite Martin Scorsese’s eighties they had a strong start with wild bull and his two Oscars in 1981 (actor and editor), the next work, King for one night, was greeted with great skepticism by critics and audiences. Today considered a cult, quoted in the spirit by Joker (we also told you about it here), at the time his concept nearly cost Scorsese his career. Yet it is precisely in this terrain of uncertainty that it took shape Out of Hours from 1985, the most Kafkaesque and unusual work of Scorsesian opus that we tell you in this new episode of our Longform (here you can find the others). 1983 was in fact a particularly critical year for his career. In addition to collecting the pieces of Rupert Pupkin’s epic, Scorsese was close to making the The last temptation of Christ when, four days into filming, Paramount stopped production. The reason? An avalanche of protest letters accusing the director of blasphemy.

Martin Scorsese’s cameo in Out of Hours.

As if that were not enough, his life was also spinning in circles: he had recently divorced Isabella Rossellini. When he got his hands on the Lies by Joseph Minion conceived as the final essay of the film course at Columbia University by the mythological Yugoslav director Dušan Makavejev, it was like a shock. And he already lived on a fairly good reputation Lies, so much so that it struck Amy Robinson and Griffin Dunne who bought the rights of use shortly after the end of the course. At that point, with Scorsese on board the project rewriting, Lies was renamed One night in Soho. In retrospect, the cancellation of The last temptation of Christ it was a real one blessing. If it started as expected, Out of Hours it would have been entrusted to a young Tim Burton in search of his first feature film after the short Vincent of 1982.

Griffin Dunne is Paul Hackett

With Scorsese entered the scene he chose to structure it as a film parody of MarnieBurton stepped out to devote himself entirely to post-production of Frankenweenee before and Pee-wee’s Big Adventure then. Out of hours was the first film since 1974’s Alice doesn’t live here anymore in which Scorsese does not produce and directs together with his (first) actor fetish: that Robert De Niro with whom, from Mean Streets to King for one night passing through Taxi Driver And wild bull, had made pages of great cinema. However, it is not far behind Out of Hours which opens the story in an unforgettable way: fast direction of harmonic tracking shots and subjective exploratory dynamics that, on the notes of Symphony K95 (73n) by Mozart, introduces us to the boring and common life of a Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne) archetypal yuppie alienated and rampant from dreams of a better life extinguished by a mechanical routine.

Paul’s ‘faded’ apartment

In this sense that of Out of hours is a beginning of great cinema. With a single, simple taxi ride, Scorsese catapults lazy Hackett from an empty ivory apartment warmed and lit by a TV into the center of a colorful and chaotic Soho with which to wrap the narrative of Out of Hours of the taste of an atypical survival horror. In the rhythm of a whirling direction, Hackett finds himself immersed up to the neck of paranoid and Kafkaesque stage agents: dancing cashiers, taxi drivers traveling at breakneck speed, sensual sculptors, schizophrenic seductresses, friendly bartenders, problematic waitresses, avenging ice cream makers and angry hordes , of which Scorsese amplifies the character criticality in a graduated but exponential way. This is the Soho night people. An absurd world that ends up overwhelming the passive Hackett in a whirlwind of fleeting loves and lethal temptations.

Rosanna Arquette in a scene from Out of Hours
“Give up Dorothy!” Rosanna Arquette in one scene.

Among these the pyrotechnic and bipolar Marcy (Rosanna Arquette) who acts as a ramshackle object of desire between sensuality, orgasms coming from Emerald City – «Give up Dorothy!»- and that Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller boldly defined: “A scream in the face of art. A kick in the ass of divinity, beauty and truth!“. All events that are only apparently disconnected orchestrated by Scorsese in a very subtle game of intentions, details and references, with which to unleash an arc of transformation of pure claustrophobic paranoia to the point of definitively stunned in the alienating, sharp and dense anxiety of a scenic conflict so harmonious in his colorful structure that the narrative twists of which it is composed – if surgically removed – even seem like a brilliant comedy of misunderstandings: the difference is made by the dense atmospheric grotesque a step away from the psychological horror at the base of Out of Hours. The real problem? The climax.

The first meeting between Paul and Marcy

Scorsese rendered it in the form of an explicit and graphic rebirth after hitting rock bottom. An exit from the chrysalis of a sterile life with which to cement the intentions of character transformation assumed in the form of a reappropriation of life and one’s place in the world at the right time. Today it seems spontaneously brilliant. He gave the story one last lashing cyclical note with which to enrich the meaning of Kafka’s journey in the extraordinary Soho that is double resolution of the scenic conflict of Out of Hours: exterior and interior. At the time, however, Scorsese did not really know which way to go. One night he invited Brian De Palma, Steven Spielberg and Terry Gilliam to see a temporary cut so that maybe an idea would come up on how to finish the film in a coherent and effective way, but none of them could help him.

Paul's rebirth in the climax of Out of Hours
Paul’s rebirth in the climax of Out of Hours

The editor Thelma Schoonmaker then came to her rescue, whose husband, director Michael Powell, advised Scorsese on the solution that later became the definitive one: “He has to get back to work“. Officially presented in New York on 11 September 1985 and then amazed the whole world at Cannes where Scorsese was awarded a surprising directorial award with a flavor of rebirth and redemption – especially for the randomness of the events – Out of hours it is actually a work with an unusual heritage. A bit in the manner of America today of Altman (of which you can read here) its difficult to find in television shows, as well as a now evident absence in the Home Video market, has ended up making it over the years a forgotten work of the opus, left behind: yet it is (perhaps) the purest and most radiant expression of its author’s eclecticism.

“The best Scorsese outside the comfort zone of spaghetti, gangsters and experiments”

A high-concept with ferocious intentions that fully represents the best Scorsese out of that (beautiful) comfort-zone narrative made up of spaghetti, gangsters and experiments. A cult that you can (and must) rediscover thanks to KILOS and grew up with curious timing. Not even a few months before in fact (February 1985) John Landis came out to the cinema with a work of similar inertia, not to mention twins: All in one night, with Jeff Goldblum and Michelle Pfeiffer. However, if Landis’s night is yes, colorful and surreal, but with a comic and harmless madness (and a much more canonical climax), that of Out of hours by Scorsese is alienating and anxious. Two great cinema stories that end up interpenetrating up to live in the reflected light of the parallels and in the shadow areas of the oppositions of a single (simple) conceptual narrative: a man, a woman and the darkness of the night in the background …

  • Do you want to re-watch the film? You can find it on KILOS
  • LONGFORM | Great cinema stories to read
  • REVISIONS | Taxi Driver, Robert De Niro and that hallucinating New York

Below you can see the trailer of the film:

Out of hours | Martin Scorsese and that crazy journey in the Kafkaesque Soho