What Goes around Comes Around: The Films of Jonathan Demme

What Goes around Comes Around: The Films of Jonathan Demme

What Goes around Comes Around: The Films of Jonathan Demme

What Goes around Comes Around: The Films of Jonathan Demme

Synopsis

This superb study by Michael Bliss and Christina Banks is the first book-length work to critically address the films of Jonathan Demme, from his first major work in 1974, Caged Heat, to his most recent, Philadelphia. In tracing the themes and techniques that Demme has developed and perfected through two decades, Bliss and Banks point out the distinctive qualities of a Demme film: his sensitive and sympathetic treatment of characters; his use of wry humor, which aids his audience in appreciating human shortcomings; and his sense of joy in the filmmaking process. A graduate of what might be called the Roger Corman School of Filmmaking, Demme quickly managed to outgrow his exploitation film background and establish himself as a director whose concerns for humanistic issues, use of the newest and finest strains in contemporary music, and fascination with darker subjects in the midst of an often comic vision mark him as an impressive cinematic force. Demme is more interested in interpersonal relationsand feelings than in deeds, an attitude complemented by his focus on issues of sexual equality and justice. Allowing for the kinds of fictional conclusions involving renewal and hope that exemplify the true mythos of comedy, Demme's films exemplify a statement that occurs in both Something Wild and Married to the Mob: "What goes around comes around".

Excerpt

Jonathan Demme is unique among American film directors. a graduate of what might be called the Roger Corman School of Filmmaking, Demme quickly managed to outgrow his exploitation film background and establish himself as a director whose concern for humanistic issues and sensitivity to the newest, upbeat strains in contemporary music -- along with a concurrent fascination with darker subjects -- mark him as an impressive cinematic force. Known almost from the beginning of his career as a director whose politics were decidedly left of center, Demme made it clear even in his earliest films that his sympathies were with the poor and disadvantaged, that he was concerned with people of color and Third World countries (a quality that emerges most pronouncedly in his documentaries Haiti. Dreams of Democracy [ 1987 ] and Cousin Bobby [ 1991 ]), and that he was interested in the manner in which strong female characters interact with various kinds of men in an attempt to create equitable, sustained relationships.

Born in 1944 in suburban Rockville Centre on Long Island and raised there and in Miami, Demme remembers developing a love of movies at an early age. "I don't know what it is, about the family structure or what, that makes a kid get so hooked on movies. When I was twelve or thirteen I'd go alone on the bus or train to see movies all over Long Island. I'd cut out ads -- I had stacks of movie ads." While attracted to the usual fare of Hollywood movies, Demme also liked the art films he went to with his parents.

Demme attended the University of Florida at Gainesville; his longtime intention of becoming a veterinarian defeated by his inability to do well in science classes, Demme quit school. As he remembers: "I started writing movie reviews for the college paper, and, as you know, when you start seeing movies free there's no going back. After I dropped out, I started reviewing for a local suburban weekly." At this . . .

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