He’s best known for his work on the legendary movie “Silence of the Lambs” with classic performances by spectacular actors Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster. He took us through the darkest recesses not only physically but also in the human mind. Foster playing the psychologically damaged Clarice Starling and Hopkins playing the classy but sly “Hannibal the Cannibal” with Demme drawing out the best in each of them as they struggled to penetrate each other’s minds.
The sets are plain and the characters are almost boring at first . It all seems so normal until you figure out you are dealing with the most sadistic creature in the universe and you actually like him. Lecter is one of the classiest, most intelligent and heartwarming individuals. Until he bites your face off.
It’s no wonder that “Silence” which came out in 1991, stole the hearts and minds of movie viewers everywhere and swept the Oscars that year. Of course Demme was a clear choice for best director and he easily won the Oscar. His camera angles and positioning created images and expressions that will give us nightmares for years to come. It also gave us a beautiful “Story of Love” between Starling and Lecter. She knew he was evil but that did not stop her from appreciating his “act of kindness” when a fellow inmate attacked her.
The crazy part is Demme who was in the business for the span of four decades never went to filmmaking school. He started at the bottom and worked his way up in a trial by fire, burning down taboos as he went, and coming out shinning brilliantly on the other side. The same man who endeared us to a cannibal who washes down human body parts with fine wine, also helped to humanize the “monsters” who were a part of the AIDS Epidemic.
His list of epic movies isn’t epic or mind blowing but he still managed to make and impact on us and blow our minds.
Another mind blowing fact, is the relationship he developed with Justin Timberlake when they were working on a concert film.
“You taught me so much about life and art and about standing up for what you believe … You made me better at my craft.”
Demme learned very quickly that he really enjoyed Timberlake’s music and even used on some of his films.
“Does everyone realize what a magnificent voice he has?” he said. “That he has an incredible range, without being show-offy? And what he cooks up with that amazing band of his, the Tennessee Kids, is just unbeatable.”
Demme’s career started out small and kind of on the other side of the tracks as he focused on things like documentaries. That didn’t stop him from straightening it out and becoming an example of excellence in the profession.
According to his publicist, Demme died yesterday from complications with esophageal cancer. His endearing personality and impact on the industry will be greatly missed.