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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

RIP Jonathan Demme

demme

7 Responses to “RIP Jonathan Demme”

  1. Sideshow Bill says:

    Another one that really hurts. Something Wild was a formative experience for me. For a lot of reasons LOL. His range and humanity were amazing.

    Personal favorite is his Robyn Hitchcock concert film, Storefront Hitchcock. I’ve been a Robyn Hitchcock sycophant for 30 years (and incidentally, his new album is sensational), and Demme captured exactly what makes that man so remarkable and charming and talented. Beautiful film. He will be missed.

  2. Movieman says:

    Favorite Demmes:
    “Citizen’s Band;” “Melvin and Howard;” the egregiously underrated “Swing Shift;” “Stop Making Sense;” “Something Wild;” “Married to the Mob;” “Silence of the Lambs;” “Philadelphia.”
    Would love to see Demme’s legendary original cut of “S/Shift” released on DVD and/or Blu-Ray some day.

  3. Ray Pride says:

    A copy of the workprint of Swing Shift is out there, which I saw on VHS long ago. Haven’t read anything about whether the original elements/workprint could be assembled

  4. Movieman says:

    Wow, lucky you!
    Was that a legally rented (or purchased) VHS tape, Ray?
    I’m the biggest “Swing Shift” fan–we’re a minority, lol–and never heard about a home video (or otherwise) release of Demme’s original workprint.

  5. Ray Pride says:

    1997. In the smoke-filled confines of a scholar’s abode.

    Two references: Steve Vineberg on the differences, almost beat-by beat here.

    And from a paywalled Sight & Sound piece:

    Demme: “Can I go back to one thing and really reveal my inner guts for one second? I’m sitting here very calmly and telling you the Swing Shift story, and about how they took it away from me. For a filmmaker, in your professional life, it’s hard to imagine anything more devastating, because you haven’t just had your work taken away from you. You’ve worked on it for more than two years, first with writers, then through pre-production, then with the editors and the composers, etc. etc., so everybody else’s work is being taken away. And the director is the kind of custodian of all the collaborative artists’ good work and it is his job to maximise everybody’s work and present it in the best way possible. So when they took this movie away and started chopping it up I knew that this would happen, so it wasn’t the usual ego thing – like my God, they’re going to take my movie away – it was also this investment of everybody else’s hard work.”

    You must have read that article in Sight and Sound. That was great! When Swing Shift came out the critics universally trashed it, even some of those critics that I particularly admired and even some that I had previously considered almost friends. This motif was running through the reviews: this guy looked as though he had some kind of promise, but looking at this thing, forget about it. And I thought, my God, if my work is bad, then trash me, but this isn’t even my work. There was nothing I could say about it. You can’t go whining to the press. But then somehow a videotape of the original – the scripted movie – found its way over to Sight and Sound and an article was written saying it was very good the original way. And it went to great pains to enumerate why it was much better than what Warner Brothers had done. But it will never be seen anywhere, because now the videotape’s all faded out and the Warner Brothers post-production people trashed all the out takes and our version as soon as I lost control, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that it was really something!

  6. Hcat says:

    Loved so many of his films, he had such love for all his characters. And like Kubrick even though he crossed various genres his films had his stamp.

    While not my favorite one of his I have a huge soft spot for the truth about Charlie. I was one of the two dozen people who saw it in the theater and while I see why it didn’t hit I thought it was lovely, lightweight little triffle that distilled the basic pleasures of watching pretty people do silly things for a few hours.

    And wow the showcases he created Pfieffer, Griffith, Foster, and Hathaway, plus creating films with room for rich supporting roles for Streep, Winger, Lahti etc… Hawn was crazy not to trust his judgement.

  7. leahnz says:

    some people are legend, demme is one. he lives on in his movies – some of which are all-time – and in our memory. rest easy lovely man

    (yowza Ray that story above is gonzo, i was aware things went horribly awry on ‘swing shift’ but didn’t realise the extent of the skullfuckery)

    per his enduring legacy, thinking over the best of demme’s filmography – such as movieman’s list above – from the formalism of ‘lambs’ to the wry, violent quirkiness of ‘something wild’ to breezy crime comedy ‘married to the mob’ to musical doc genius of ‘sense’ and straight-up drama of ‘philadelphia’ and ‘rachel getting married’ – one a formal courtroom narrative and the other a loose, intimate family portrait – his range is truly remarkable.
    i wonder if one of demme’s film-making legacies will be his penchant for actors looking/talking to another character direct to camera straight down the barrel, such an unusual quirk. i remember from the excellent ‘looking back at making the silence of the lambs’ doc a couple of cast (can’t remember who now) talking about how difficult it was to do and thinking that shooting that way was a disaster in the making, but as it turned out it’s one of the most visually arresting aspects of the movie (props to tak fujimoto for this too)

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