“[Jonathan] Demme’s dive into the deviant undercurrents of America at the end of the Reagan-Bush era gripped audiences who had been primed by another auteur’s breaking of the barriers between art and exploitation. Moody and visceral as no prime-time series had ever been before, David Lynch’s Twin Peaks (1990–91) was a twisted tale founded on the naked corpse of a teenage girl—Laura Palmer. A quarter of a century later, viewers who had been bingeing on the original Twin Peaks as it was released on various digital platforms along with its prequel, the theatrical feature Fire Walk with Me (1992), avidly consumed Twin Peaks: The Return during its eighteen-episode run on Showtime, finding themselves trapped in a wormhole, also known as the Lynchian unconscious, where the homicidal law of the father is forever unchecked and unchanged. The return of Twin Peaks roughly coincided with the appearance of a new restoration of The Silence of the Lambs in theaters, and now in this release. This dialectician of gender in popular culture relishes the timing. […] One major thing that distinguishes Demme’s film from Twin Peaks—and from the vast majority of serial-killer investigative dramas, including those of another contemporary auteur, David Fincher—is the fact that his hero is a woman. “

The Criterion Collection

Filmmaker Jonathan Demme feeds Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter on the set of The Silence of the Lambs.
Filmmaker Jonathan Demme feeds Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter on the set of The Silence of the Lambs.

Surprised and saddened to hear that one of my favourite filmmakers, Jonathan Demme, has passed away. Demme is perhaps best known for his superb adaptation of Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs (1991), a film that received all five major Academy Awards: Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins), Best Actress (Jodie Foster) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Ted Tally). His other works include Philadelphia (1993), Married to the Mob (1988), and Stop Making Sense (1984), the genre-bending music documentary about Talking Heads. Demme was not just a supreme talent but a humanitarian.

Sarah Marshall explores our continued fascination with one of the strongest female protagonists in the popular imagination
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Jodie Foster as FBI trainee Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs (dir. Jonathan Demme, 1991)
“People will say we’re in love,” Hannibal Lecter tells Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs. The movie that made these characters into American icons turned 25 years old this February. More specifically, it celebrated its birthday on Valentine’s Day, the almost unbelievably ballsy release date director Jonathan Demme chose for his adaptation of Thomas Harris’ 1988 novel. Maybe it’s because of this particularly suggestive anniversary date that people really have spent the last 25 years saying exactly what Hannibal Lecter once predicted. In any case, it’s a shame that Hannibal and Clarice’s story has become—with Thomas Harris’ 1999 novel Hannibal and Ridley Scott’s 2001 film adaptation—something of a Byronic romance. In Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs, we find two characters searching for something far more elusive than limerence and luxury: mutual respect.

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David Sexton explores the lineage of one of modern literature and film’s most chilling villains in his critical study, The Strange World Of Thomas Harris
Thomas Harris, The Silence of the Lambs
Thomas Harris, The Silence of the Lambs
One of Lecter’s most obvious fictional precursors is Sherlock Holmes and before him, therefore, Poe’s Dupin. Many of Lecter’s observations are pure Holmes in style, if not content. As he tells Clarice: “‘You use Evyan skin cream, and sometimes you wear L’Air du Temps, but not today.'” On their next meeting, he detects a Band-Aid under her clothes.

Compare Holmes on his first meeting with Watson in A Study In Scarlet: “‘You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive.’ ‘How on earth did you know that?’ I asked in astonishment.’ ” When, at their next meeting, Holmes explains his deductions, the amazed Watson says, rightly enough, “You remind me of Edgar Allan Poe’s Dupin. I had no idea that such individuals did exist outside of stories.”
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