Film director Jonathan Demme: 'I've always followed my enthusiasm'
It took the death of film director Jonathan Demme for me to fully appreciate having the opportunity to experience his works on the big screen as intended.
There was a period from the late 1980s to the early '90s that he could do no wrong. While I immensely enjoyed his spirited, female-centric "Something Wild" (1986) and "Married to the Mob" (1988), I consider seeing in theaters the wonderful Talking Heads concert documentary "Stop Making Sense" (1984) and the one-two dramatic punch of "The Silence of the Lambs" (1991) and the AIDS-era "Philadelphia" (1993) pivotal moments in my movie-going life. The latter two are amongst the decade's finest films.
"Stop Making Sense" was a revelatory experience, unlike any straight-ahead concert documentary. Incredibly inventive, band leadman David Byrne said, in a journal entry posted the day of his death, that "Jonathan’s skill was to see the show almost as a theatrical ensemble
piece, in which the characters and their quirks would be introduced to
the audience, and you’d get to know the band as people, each with their
distinct personalities. They became your friends, in a sense."
Seeing the Talking Heads film, it's no surprised Demme was also a master of incorporating music in his own films and was a true fan. He was also responsible for one of the best music videos ever done. New Order's "The Perfect Kiss" centers around a live studio performance. Elegant in its apparent simplicity, the film-shot promotional short honors and celebrates the band's creative process.
It's truly a shame that Demme died due to esophageal cancer and recurring complications from heart disease. His enthusiasm never flagged and he continued to work in both film and television to the very end. One of his final TV projects, directing an episode of Fox's "Shots Fired" that coincidentally aired on the same day of his death.
It's only apt that his last film, one for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that utilizes footage from past induction ceremonies, will debut at the Cleveland center in the summer.
Two particularly noteworthy pieces have been posted by Rolling Stone and Slate. "Lambs" star Jodie Foster remembers Demme as being "as quirky as his comedies and as deep as his dramas. He was pure energy; the unstoppable cheerleader for anyone creative. Just as passionate about music as he was about art, he was and will always be a champion of the soul."
And a champion of anybody else's projects that moved him. A great story that circulated on social media Wednesday was his enthusiasm for Barry Jenkins' Oscar-winning "Moonlight:"
I, and many others, will miss the humanity of this great artist. And if you aren't familiar with Demme's work outside of "Lambs," do yourself a favor and check out the rest of his noteworthy films.