Noteworthy Deaths Silence of Lambs director's films diverse

by Dwayne Torres April 30, 2017, 1:32
Noteworthy Deaths Silence of Lambs director's films diverse

Jonathan Demme died yesterday. It's that he conspicuously lacked the blue part of the spectrum.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: Jonathan Demme was famously a sweetheart of a movie director.

I wouldn't encounter Demme again for many years.

The truth about Jonathan is that when he communicated his enthusiasm, he elicited yours. He later married Joanne Howard, an artist. It's about a Nevada service station owner who claims to be the beneficiary of the billionaire. Their communication begets a new community. "His pictures have an inner lyricism that just lifts them off the ground_even a story like 'The Silence of the Lambs.'" - director Martin Scorsese in a statement. In the former, a serial killer and an Federal Bureau of Investigation trainee become unlikely confederates in hunting down a second serial killer.

Tim Robbins remembered him as "a lovely man, a great director and a kind soul", while Robbins' former partner Susan Sarandon said she was "devastated".

On paper, these plots read like standard opposites-attract scenarios.

He was one of the few filmmakers who could direct strong women on screen without sexualising them, or portray a minority without frowning upon them. For Jonathan's first-person camera work - often executed by Tak Fujimoto, his favorite cinematographer - revealed what the world looked like from the perspective of each imagined opposite.

Besides thrillers, romantic comedies and a farce about the wife of a mobster, his real love was for documentaries.

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Demme's humanist microscope wasn't limited to the fictional characters he helped breathe life into, as he inadvertently turned it onto himself. And Clarice Starling certainly left an impact on pop culture - The X-Files creator Chris Carter modelled his leading lady, Dana Scully (played by Gillian Anderson) after her among others. The film starred Denzel Washington, Liev Schreiber and Meryl Streep, which hit in the middle of a contentious presidential election between George W. Bush and John Kerry, but despite the political climate, it didn't make much of a splash.

Onscreen Demme's NY period was brief, just three movies to close out the 1980's: Something Wild, Swimming to Cambodia, and Married to the Mob. But true to his affable reputation, the late Jonathan Demme avoided fixation. His "Something Wild" is a seminal movie for me.

Demme won the Oscar in 1992 for "The Silence of the Lambs" (one of many for the film), which despite inspiring the dubious trend of injecting sadism into otherwise sophisticated suspense, stands to this day as the gold standard of the form. I love you forever.

To talk about those at greater length would miss mentioning Jonathan's extraordinary ear.

He also directed concert and music documentaries for the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Kenny Chesney and Neil Young, the Talking Heads, and more recently, "Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids".

But it was Something Wild (1986) that most brilliantly telescoped Demme's gleeful fusion of song and subject matter, and provided, for me and I suspect many others, a guide to how one could deploy one's personal playlist in the service of broader narrative interests.

Katherine Dieckmann's film Strange Weather, starring Holly Hunter and Carrie Coon, with music by Sharon Van Etten and songs ranging from Interpol to Cassandra Wilson, opens theatrically on July 28.


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