I just saw, on twitter, that Jonathan Demme died today in New York City. He was 73 years old.
It’s ironic that Jonathan Demme’s best known film was the dark and harsh Silence of the Lambs because Demme was actually one of the most humanistic directors out there. Starting with his work for Roger Corman in the early 70s, Demme worked in all genres. He did gangster movies, action films, quirky comedies, socially conscious documentaries, and serious prestige dramas. His directorial debut, Caged Heat, features one of Barbara Steele’s best performances and is considered to be the standard by which all other women in prison films are judged. His concert film, Stop Making Sense, is widely considered to be the best concert film ever made. His work on Silence of the Lambs continues to influence the horror genre to this day and Philadelphia was the first studio picture to be made about AIDS. Even his remake of The Manchurian Candidate was better than the typical remake. No matter what genre he was working in, the thing that remained a constant was Demme’s own interest in the human condition. His films felt alive in a way that few directors have ever been able to duplicate. His influence is obvious in the work of everyone from Wes Anderson to Paul Thomas Anderson to Alexander Payne.
Demme may be best known for The Silence of the Lambs but my favorite of his films will always be Rachel Getting Married.
Jonathan Demme, RIP.