Jonathan Demme

I can’t say much about Jonathan Demme that hasn’t already been said better by A.V. Club, among others, but his vision certainly touched me.

Celebrity deaths come so often these days, it gives me an eerie feeling. Not about death, about the mass production of artistic soulfulness itself. Aside from the outliers like Prince and Michael Jackson, who died way too young, many of the deaths are within the statistical range of when it typically comes. Some combination of the Baby Boom, TV syndication, the explosion of vinyl records in the 1970s, and maybe, actually, a great generation of artists that had its day – and what a time it was – is coming together again at harvest time, and Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, Mary Tyler Moore, Don Rickles, Carrie Fisher, and Chuck Berry and the entertainment giants of our childhoods are dying and going to keep dying till there are fewer and fewer of them, and one day we’ll get a Tweet, or however we’re saying “hey check this out” at that time, that says, “Remember Charlie, from ‘Charlie bit my finger‘ in the early days of YouTube? Well, he’s dead too.”**

I’ve never watched Silence of the Lambs! I don’t like sociopath movies, and never have: If thrillers are defined by the kind of evil inside the villain, then the sociopathic killer, to me, is just too plain a copout. Philadelphia seemed a little heavy-handed at the time, but we have to remember what a breakthrough that was, and I’m glad Demme’s getting lots of credit for that.

But I will always love him for Stop Making Sense. As a teenager I saw it at the State Theatre in Ithaca, NY, and joined dozens of Cornell students dancing in the aisles. I didn’t understand it, but the title put me right at ease: don’t try making sense of it! You could tell, however, that something about the period was being defined on that screen

**I feel like I have license to be so callous about death while eulogizing an earnest guy like Demme, because his pal Robyn Hitchcock handles it much more so in Demme’s film Storefront Hitchcock, which I’ve written about in the past.

Rest in Peace. We’re lucky you were so productive while you were alive, and your films are going to be around a long, long time.

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