Film

Afterhours (Martin Scorsese, 1985) and Peeping Tom (Michael Powell,1960)

Let’s face it, we’ve all been there, we’ve all had nights where we were bored so we’d decided to skip work early to hit the bars and maybe meet someone for a good time. We’ve all had experiences where we meet someone who seems interested in us and so invites us over for coffee maybe, but it doesn’t go so well and gets a little awkward. Who hasn’t met a girl or guy with one or two personality disorders, a weird fetish, a death fixation or some morbid neurotic phobia?

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We’ve all found ourselves at one time lost, stranded in some strange place with no cash for bus fare, unable to get home, accepting favours from strange people who seem to want to have sex with us. We’ve all ended up in some anarcho-punk nightclub at 4 am getting our heads shaved, or getting pursued by an angry mob of gays and lesbians driving an ice-cream van, who’d already beaten another man to death after mistaking him for a burglar. We’ve all been there.

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I’d watched Powell’s Peeping Tom (1960) and Scorsese’s Afterhours (1985) back to back, and learned that Peeping Tom had not only been lost for twenty years after it’s controversal realise, but was rediscovered and rereleased with the help of Scorsese around the time he was trying to make Last Temptation of Christ. When this project fell through, and Scorsese was once again thinking of quiting the industry, he was offered a script by his friend Amy Robinson, who’d acted in Mean Streets and was the girlfriend of actor Richard Griffith.

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Although, Robinson and Griffith had originally asked Tim Burton to direct the film after they’d seen his short animated film Vincent, Burton respectfully withdrew after he’d heard Scorsese was interested in the project.

Like Powell’s Peeping Tom, Afterhours seems like a serious for one of the industry’s most artistic and admired filmmakers. Peeping Tom, what Scorsese describes as a vibrant, nasty and disturbing psycho-shocker that itself represents our deepest darkest fantasies about cinematic sex and death, while Powell as a director had a strong influence on Scorsese’s visual style and themes of voyeurism and repression. Afterhours feels like it explores similar themes of anxiety and fear, and also invoking Powell’s lurid mix of visual beauty and claustrophobia.

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Interestingly, during production, Scorsese did not yet have an ending for the film, and had shown it Spielberg and DePalma for suggestions. At one point, the Griffith character, in order to escape the angry mob, is offered help from a mysterious women in a nightclub who suggests he hide by climbing into a her vagina, and from which he is reborn/ejected Being-John-Malkovich style out onto an interstate highway in a pool of slimy placenta.

When he asked Powell his thoughts he’d suggested that Griffith should simply end up back where he started – at work outside his office building.

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