Monday, March 05, 2018

The Silence Of The Lambs 1991

           I have always been on shaky ground when it comes to this horror thriller, and my opinion of it after seeing the sharp criterion transfer the other night hasn’t changed. I still consider it overcooked and confusing, and yes I still think it is outrageously homophobic just like it did in 1991, but more about that later. I much prefer Michael Mann’s stylish brightly colored take on this story that was titled “Manhunter” and was released in 1986 to mixed reviews and poor box office, but had a much better Lecktor (his last name is spelled differently in this film) played by Brian Cox a better actor than Anthony Hopkins. Lambs which I sarcastically called the silence of the lamb chops which my friends found amusing opened to great reviews and big box office. Granted the film especially when seen for the first time can make one nervous and creeped out, but its also as I said confusing and far fetched even though these criticisms can be thrown at most films of the horror thriller genre.
                      When I first saw it at a packed theatre on a cold Sunday afternoon the audience gasped and screamed at all the right places, and giggled coolly at Anthony Hopkins snide remarks and nasty innuendos mostly directed at the young and naive FBI agent played well by Jodi Foster.
                   The look of the film shot by Jonathan Demme’s reliable and fine cinematographer Tak Fujimoto and the richly textured production design by Kristi Zea add a lot to the mood and stress of the film as does the nicely placed cast especially those in the tiny meager roles. So why wasn’t I more engaged and impressed with this modern day Grand Guignol? As I hinted at earlier in my review a lot of my hostility and disgust has to do with Demme’s making the serial killer “Buffalo Bill” a great big gay queen who killed because of his hatred of women and his desire to become one hence his skinning of victims and his attempt at making a garment from their skins.
                I didn’t read the book and for all I know this nasty gay baiting might be there as well.  All the gay baiting markers and nasty little innuendos were in place in the film including that damn little poodle named precious no less. I remember how offended I was and how angry I felt that after all the steps taken by the gay community all the battles and fights both won and lost, movies were still presenting gay men as sick fucks who did horrible things especially to women.
                  The excuses and the chest beating from the makers of the film came hard and fast, and even today excuses are still being made for the homophobia in the film by some apologetic critics including Amy Taubin who in the essay that she did for the Criterion dvd booklet actually says “I have no doubt that if  demme were alive to remake the silence of the lambs today, the character of bill would be modified” An admission of guilt and great Amy except Demme only made remakes of other people’s films. I still boil and  peak with anger at Jodi Foster for her gushing and pathetic embracing of the film as not being homophobic. Take the money and run Jodi and this coming from a defender of Mel Gibson and a still more or less in the closet lesbian shouldn’t surprise me, and it doesn’t.                  
                    So Demme wins an Oscar as does the film and the two stars and to make it up to the Gay community Demme makes a whishy washy preachy film about AIDS and casts a homophobic black actor (don’t you be kissing a man he warned a young black actor who was about to start filming an adaptation of an important play) as a homophobic black lawyer who eventually comes around just as everyone is wiping the tears from their eyes as Tom Hanks dies a touching and beautiful Oscar death. Cut and print, and we’re on our way to the Academy Awards once more.  To be fair to Demme I do have a fondness for some of his films and consider “Stop Making Sense” the best concert film ever made, but my problems and criticisms of  “lambs” still remain. See it if you must. 


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