Thursday, May 23, 2013

THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991) movie review

Silence of the Lambs, The (1991) d. Demme, Jonathan (USA)

Director Demme combines forces with stars Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins to create a rare hit that’s both mainstream Oscar-winning success and first-rate horror film. Masterfully blending psychological horror and physical violence, screenwriter Ted Tally’s dynamite script (adapted from Thomas Harris’ novel) examines an ambitious young FBI trainee’s (Foster) efforts to track down the serial killer Buffalo Bill – a nickname he’s earned by skinning his victims (Ted Levine, in a meticulously shaded performance). Helping her is imprisoned serial murderer Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Hopkins), dubbed “Hannibal the Cannibal” for the unsavory habit of consuming his victims.

Demme handles the action with a sure touch, mixing character, complex plotting, and locations that have a feeling of absolute authenticity. Repeated viewings reveal what a careful craftsman Demme is, and even the most superficial glance reveals how much pop culture’s fascination with serial killers and crime scene pathology has been derived from the film’s popularity.

Thanks to Hopkins’ exquisitely modulated performance, walking a tightrope between sneering intellectual superiority and barely restrained animal urges, Lecter becomes one the of the screen’s all-time memorable and electrifying fiends. (The character originally appeared in Thomas’ novel Red Dragon, filmed by Michael Mann in 1986 as the underrated Manhunter with Brian Cox in the role.)

The only film aside from It Happened One Night and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest to storm the Academy Awards (winning Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Director and Screenplay), although Hopkins probably by all rights should have been nominated for Supporting Actor, considering his minimal time onscreen (slightly over 16 minutes). Keep a sharp eye out for directors Roger Corman and George Romero, who appear in cameos.

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