Horror Cult Films sadly brings you the news that director Jonathan Demme died on Wednesday of complications from esophageal cancer, according to a statement from his publicist. He remains best known for The Silence Of The Lambs in 1991, which remains the only horror movie [and some would consider it to be a thriller instead- I would say that it’s both] to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. However, his career was virtually defined by its incredible diversity, a good example being, having finally tasted huge box office sucess with his Hannibal Lector film, Demme [who later turned down Hannibal and Red Dragon] opting to follow it up with the Aids drama Philadelphia, a film whose final scene still brings tears to my eyes.
He begun his career, like many fine filmmakers, working for Roger Corman, before making his major studio debut with the comedy Citizen’s Band, though it flopped and Demme had to suffer many more commercial disappointments before finally hitting box office gold, despite much critical acclaim for films like the comedy drama Melvin And Howard and the screwball action-romantic comedy Something Wild I’m a particular fan of his Hitchcockian thriller Last Embrace and his Mafia comedy Married To The Mob, and there’s a good chance that Swing Shift may have been good if star Goldie Hawn hadn’t taken it over and screwed it up. He slipped a little with unnecessary remakes of The Manchurian Candidate and Charade [The Truth About Charlie], but regained his mojo with the documentary style drama Rachel Getting Married. He also made some well regarded documentaries including the Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense and a considerable number of music videos.
When a filmmaker’s output is so diverse it’s often hard to find links, but Demme’s work can be generally characterised by a love of people and coupled with that a refusal to judge his characters, warmth, a heavy use of steadicam, and close-ups of characters looking directly into the camera for dramatic effect.