First temptation

First temptation

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The early work of maestros is a fascinating footprint,in there you can see the glimpses of greatness to come. Martin Scorsese’s Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore and After Hours are very different from each other,but both live up to the promise of Mean Streets in the way they create an unforgettable time,people and place.

Is there anyone who’s come away from Alice without being blown away by the amazing Ellen Burstyn? Her Alice was a woman of her time,when it was perfectly all right for a woman to spend all day trying to come up with a perfect pot roast for the boor she is married too,and then spend all night waiting fruitlessly for him to show her some tender passion,not just roll off her when he was done. After her husband dies in an accident,Alice picks up the pieces,and her 11-year- old-son,and starts a journey which is as revelatory to her,as to us : when she begins,a woman alone in a man’s world,we have little hope that Alice will make it,but how we hope she will. Burstyn makes us care,like only the best actors can.

We’re happy to see the back of Alice’s callous husband. We’re even happier to see her shake off the violent fellow she gets entangled with right off: Harvey Keitel is almost unrecognisable as the psychotic Ben. And we hope that she will stay a while with the gentler,kinder Kris Kristofferson,who will hopefully teach her son not to have such a lip on him. The young fellow played by Alfred Lutter is an outstanding act: when was the last time you got stuck with a brilliant but annoying young boy on a long journey,who insists on telling you the same joke over and over again?

In the DVD’s commentary,Burstyn reveals that she was asked if she wanted to direct this one. She nixed,and the movie went to Scorsese who showed that he was as much a dab hand at doing a ‘women’s picture’ as he was in the mean streets of New York.


Which he’s back in,after the slow-moving back roads of Southwest America. After Hours,a mad ramble in Soho,has the personable Paul Hackett cutting loose amidst a bunch of manic residents of Manhattan’s swish-yet-sleazy district.

He careers from a pretty but hysterical coffee drinker to a sculptress who likes whips and leather,to a I-hate-my-job waitress to an out-of-control driver of an ice cream truck.

All poor Paul,superbly played by Griffin Dunne (co-incidentally,he auditioned for the little boy’s part in Alice),wants is to go home. But as the night winds on,he is drawn deeper into the nightmare. Scorsese famously made this film after his attempts at putting together The Last Temptation of Christ failed,and a lot of the anxiety and the fear that he had—that he would never make a film again—are reflected in the endlessness of Paul’s travails. And then dawn breaks,and the wanderer finds himself back where he started,and we,like Paul,feel a huge sense of relief : Paul does live here,gentlefolks,and everything is right with the world. After Hours is a blast,but it has an aftertaste: what if this ever happens to you? Of course,all went right after this for Scorsese,too. He went ahead and made Last Temptation in a couple of years.