Jonathan Demme

"Jonathan Demme has proven himself to be one of the more acute observers of the inner life of America during the course of a directorial career that began in the early 1970s… Demme’s concern with character—focused particularly through the observation of telling eccentricities—is perhaps his trademark, combined with a vitality and willingness to use the frameworks of various genres to their fullest extent." - Norman Miller (International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, 2000)

Jonathan Demme

Director / Producer
(1944- ) Born February 22, Baldwin, Long Island, New York, USA
Top 250 Directors

Key Production Country: USA
Key Genres: Thriller, Drama, Comedy Drama, Psychological Thriller, Comedy, Romance, Period Film, Music, Family Drama, Documentary, Crime, Concerts
Key Collaborators: Tak Fujimoto (Cinematographer), Craig McKay (Editor), Kristi Zea (Production Designer), Edward Saxon (Producer), Robert Ridgely (Character Actor), Kenneth Utt (Producer), Carol Littleton (Editor), John Cale (Composer), Paul Le Mat (Leading Actor), Denzel Washington (Leading Actor), Jason Robards (Leading Actor), Bo Goldman (Screenwriter)

“Around 1990, Demme seemed the most versatile director in America. He was interested in more odd things and people; he noticed and heard more. He loved the provinces, music of all kinds, character actors, the fusion of comedy and high drama. He had a way of guarding his rather capricious integrity in every testing commercial setup. He had not yet stopped surprising us. And he had already given us many lengthy passages of sheer movie that would grace the careers of Minnelli, Cukor, or the other Demy, Jacques. He was a natural in an age when so many people made moviemaking feel onerous.” - David Thomson (The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, 2010)
“One of Hollywood’s most successful directors over the past decade, Demme has baffled his admirers by frequently taking time out from a commercial career to make documentaries about musicians and people he has admired. Demo describes these projects as ‘ego trips’ and, although they lend an unusual facet to his career, they have denied his fans, sometimes for several years, some of the mainstream films he might have made.” - David Quinlan (Quinlan's Film Directors, 1999)
“Graduating from exploitation pictures made for Corman, Demme hit his stride with a series of gentle, populist comedies about working-class life (Handle with Care, Swing Shift), quirky celebrations of eccentricity, community and friendship in which the humour derived from character rather than one-liners or pratfalls… While his more recent features - The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia, Beloved - may be more closely aligned to mainstream genres and more upfront in their ‘progressive’ treatment of serious issues, Demme’s fundamental humanism, embodied in a subtly stylish, slightly old-fashioned, unassertive brand of direction, remains intact.” - Geoff Andrew (The Director's Vision, 1999)
“Jonathan Demme’s is one of the most interesting oeuvres of the last 25 years. As well as taking on several roles in the filmmaking process, Demme has made films ranging from screwball comedy to documentary… Altogether, Demme’s output amounts to a body of work that is nothing if not eclectic and original.” - Richard Armstrong (The Rough Guide to Film, 2007)
“One of the most supple-minded and inventive American directors of the postwar era… Making his directing debut in 1974, Demme soon attracted critics’ attention for his ingenuity and style. He won wide praise for Citizens Band/Handle with Care (1977) and Last Embrace (1979), and international acclaim for Melvin and Howard (1980).” - The Film Encyclopedia, 2012
“In an era of pat sentiment and cynically calculated optimism, few film-makers have infused their films with as much authentic joy and generosity as Jonathan Demme. He seems fascinated with humanity and his films overflow with its celebration, resulting in a body of work as rich, diverse and vibrant as that of any other contemporary director. He shows a rare understanding of the relationship between cinema and music, he embraces the collaborative nature of film-making, and he has worked across a range of formats, from feature film to documentary.” - Andrew Syder (Contemporary North American Film Directors, 2002)
“There’s nothing I’d rather do than direct because directing combines three of my favourite things in life: people, imagery, and sound - not just music, but the sounds of life.” - Jonathan Demme
TSPDT Guide
Recommended
Who Am I This Time? (1982), Something Wild (1986), The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Worth a Look
Handle with Care (1977), Melvin and Howard (1980), Stop Making Sense (1984), Swing Shift (1984), Swimming to Cambodia (1987), Married to the Mob (1988), Philadelphia (1993), The Manchurian Candidate (2004), Neil Young: Heart of Gold (2005)
Approach with Caution
Caged Heat (1974), Last Embrace (1979), Beloved (1998), Rachel Getting Married (2008)
Acclaimed Films / IMDB Filmography
1,000 Greatest Films 21st Century's Most Acclaimed Films
Jonathan Demme / Favourite Films
Antonio das Mortes (1969) Glauber Rocha, Black Orpheus (1959) Marcel Camus, Ceddo (1976) Ousmane Sembene, Coming Home (1978) Hal Ashby, The Conformist (1970) Bernardo Bertolucci, Five Easy Pieces (1970) Bob Rafelson, Muriel (1963) Alain Resnais, Nothing But a Man (1964) Michael Roemer, Shoot the Piano Player (1960) François Truffaut, Yojimbo (1961) Akira Kurosawa.
Source: Facets (2003)
Amazon Products
Films / Books
    Something Wild
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