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August 29, 2008


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LAST EMBRACE is interesting, but the real highlights of the picture are Sam Levene's great supporting performance and a terrific late Miklos Rosza score.

Allen Belz

I saw Crazy Mama years ago on VHS and recall enjoying it well enough...much more cartoony than Handle With Care, but with a number of nice touches and plenty of charm. And speaking of Handle, I've always thought that should be the other way around: Citizen's Band (a.k.a. Handle With Care) as that second title was what it was renamed by some nervous studio type.


I haven't seen Demme's 70s & 80s work (except for Stop Making Sense, which I love), so I won't comment on his status as a critical darling. But all the praise heaped on Silence (great auteur dignifies genre exercise, etc.) strikes me as overblown. It's really not that visually creative of a film - certainly Mann's Manhunter blows it out of the water in that department (though overall, it was kind of a misstep).


Manhunter is a much more interesting film than The Silence of the Lambs, which is, as MovieMan0283 points out above, seriously overrated.


I disagree on "Silence" being overrated; it's a superb film. I think "Manhunter" is flawed, but the two films reflect the decidedly separate personalities that made them. Also, "Silence" gripped pop culture like the great movies truly do: I've been watching the first season of "The X-Files" and boy howdy, was "Silence" ever an influence on that.

Aaron Aradillas

Michael Mann's Manhunter is one of my favorite movies of all time. It rivals Psycho as the greatest thriller of the last 50 years. When released in August of '86, it was clearly ahead of its time. The attention to clinical details and almost literally placing the audience in the mind(s) of a psychopath, pretty much doomed the picture. (It is a great irony that star William Peterson has found success on a show that wouldn't exist without Manhunter. And, to all you Fincher geeks out there, Se7en owes a debt to Manhunter. Both Fincher and Andrew Kevin Walker would admit that.)

The performances by Peterson, Noonan, Cox, Allen, Farina, Lang help to create a reality that is constantly on the brink of being shattered by a very human madman.

The opening pre-title sequecne remains one of the most frightening scenes ever filmed. The scene where Tom Noonan's Tooth Fairy freaks out is almost operatic. The final confrontation (scored to Iron Butterfly's signature song) is one of the most cathartic showdowns ever. Peterson, following his bracing star turn in To Live and Die in L.A., displays a quiet stillness that brilliantly acts as counterpoint to the bottled-up violence and madness that he uses to do his job.

(Edward Norton's take on Will Graham in Ratner's Red Dragon is one of the most squirm-inducing performances of the decade. The only thing worst than Norton was hearing Ratner say things like, "The first movie was a mistake. I went back to the source material." I think Mann simply said, "He must be kidding.")

Demme's take on the good Dr. Lector is more of a nuts-and-bolts manhunt thriller. What elevates it to Art is the interplay between Hopkins and Foster. (Brian Cox's Lector is no less scary--or charming--than Sir Tony's. This is a rare case of two actors' approaches to the same character can stand next to each other.)

The real bad guy in the Manhunter/Lambs showdown is Dino De Laurentis, who didn't take proper care of the Mnahunter negative because the movie failed to amke any money. Consequently, the movie will never look as good as Lambs on home video. Dino's short-sightedness also led him to pass on Lambs when the option for the book came across his desk.


"...if we cannot appreciate great trash we have very little reason to be interested in [movies]."

What a horribly pessimistic, irresponsible thing to say. If we cannot appreciate Big Macs, we have very little reason to be interested in food. If we cannot appreciate Britney Spears, we have very little reason to be interested in music. That sounds right....I guess?

It's philosophies like that that are responsible for the great amount of trash we get in American film today.


No mention of Demme's "Beloved"? I'll go out on a limb and say I thought it salvaged what was truly good in an overblown, overwritten (and wildly overpraised) book. Plus, Oprah was pretty cool in it--who'd have guessed she would be that good?

Allen Belz

He alluded to it: "His post-Lambs output has been quite remarkable..." As a big devotee of Demme pre-90s stuff the nagging thought has periodically arisen that the later period is ripe for reassessment, and I'm happy for the excuse to dive in.


I've always wondered where Demme's more recent (negative) reputation has come from. Does this 'return to form' label have more to do with the generalization made between light-hearted early career and later uber-seriousness or does it have more to do with the fact that he's only made 5 features in the last 20 years, the first two perhaps overpraised and the last three perhaps overcriticized?


Um. I seriously doubt "Rachel Getting Married" will put Demme in the critics good graces again.
Has anyone seen the trailer? It looks excruciatingly awful.
I'd love to be proven wrong, of course

Allen Belz

Oh, and a bit of info...went shopping on Netflix for Demme flicks and found that Crazy Mama is on DVD.


I saw Citizens Band more or less when it came out and I recall Marcia Rodd's performance as being unbelievably good, a comic masterpiece. It's been along time so I might feel different now, but that's how I remember it.

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