Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Jonathan Demme

Oscar-winning director; one of America's greatest filmmakers -- via Indiewire. I saw "Melvin and Howard" when I was 19, and it changed my way of thinking about how to tell a story and what to tell a story about. After that, I followed him ardently, and went through his back catalog as well. He was one of those directors whose films you went to see no matter what, just to see what he was thinking about.

He started as a film critic -- like me, he covered the arts because he was too poor to pay to get in. He then learned his craft in school of Roger Corman, crafting the best women-in-prison exploitation film, "Caged Heat," in his first try, a promising and dubious achievement. He never stopped being a great storyteller and a wide observer of humanity with a great sense of humor. He found something interesting and redeeming in every character who crossed the screen, and his democracy of vision bears similarities to another favorite storyteller of mine, Steinbeck. Demme was a much-needed optimist.

He will be best remembered for "The Silence of the Lambs," but so many more of his films deserve another look. Don't forget the iconic concert film "Stop Making Sense," as well as his masterful adaptation of Vonnegut's "Who Am I This Time?" for TV's "American Playhouse." Here's a scattering of trailers below -- An insanely versatile artist.

UPDATE: I have to include Bruce Weber's great obit here; he points out some things I missed, such as that Demme was an actor's director, something he shares with Mazursky, another of my faves; he also emphasizes his affection for Truffaut, which I share and is pretty evident, and which ultimately descends from Renoir, that curious and attentive humanism that recognizes that "everyone has their reasons." Furthermore, the music! Demme was the king of the compilation soundtrack -- I have the "Something Wild" one on vinyl, I was so taken with it. He really turned us on to a lot of powerful music.