Friday, November 4, 2011

Silence of the Lambs (1990)



About a year ago, I spied the Criterion edition of Jonathan Demme's Silence of the Lambs for 5 bucks. Seeing as it was an out of print edition, that price was very agreeable and I bought it. After it arrived, I unwrapped it, put it on my shelf, and there it sat for a full year. After fathomless badgering from Alex and additional urges from friends to see it, I finally broke down.


Over the course of two very late nights I did watch it, and was dead impressed. The film had a lot of class. For the most part, it didn't dwell on the more grisly aspects of the story, and let the audience fill in the blanks. Jodie Foster was a strong lead, and I found it very interesting how her character Clarice Starling wasn't just your standard FBI agent character with a past. She's a rookie, as new to her surroundings as the audience. This isn't overemphasized though. She's very cool and professional, and there's no doubt that Starling is on her way to being a good agent. Anthony Hopkins was hilarious as Hannibal Lecter, and it looked like he was having a lot of fun in the role. Ted Levine also deserves a mention as the serial killer Buffalo Bill. Like many others I'm sure, I remember him as Captain Stottlemeyer on the USA detective series Monk. I must say I'm really impressed by his acting range, as he's quite good in this.

I was also very much impressed by this man's mustache.

Also keep an eye out for Diane Baker and Roger Corman (yes, THAT Roger Corman), who make brief appearances.

Probably the best thing about this movie for me is the way it builds tension and fear in the audience (meaning me). This is done through many different means, but I'll cite my favorite example: The scene where Lecter escapes his high-rise prison.

The first time Hannibal Lecter is described to us occurs very early on in the film. Dr. Chilton is talking to Agent Starling about an incident that occurred several years earlier, in which Lecter freed himself and attacked a nurse. We never see what happened. All we know comes through Chilton's description and Starling's reaction to a photo that's never shown onscreen. We are forced to imagine. Moving on to much later in the film, Lecter has freed himself yet again. This time, he's in a high-rise prison cell, and the two guards in the room with him don't know that he's picked the lock on his handcuffs and can attack them at any minute. It's absolutely edge-of-your-seat intense. You've still got that imagined image from before in your head, which makes it terrifying as the guard's face gets within biting distance of Lecter.


As mentioned earlier, I have the out of print Criterion edition of the film, which features a bloody awful transfer, but some nice exclusive extras including a commentary with Jonathan Demme, Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, screenwriter Ted Tally, and FBI agent John Douglas. Also included are two interactive features, 7 deleted scenes, storyboards, and a short essay by film critic Amy Taubin. It's a worth-while buy, although a double-dip might be in order now that the Blu-Ray edition out.

All in all, this is a very good film, that features great performances, a well-told story, and masterfully built suspense. If you haven't, for whatever reason, checked this movie out, I definitely recommend it.

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