Reviews

The Silence Of The Lambs: Ultimate Edition

5

The best documentaries force you back to the original film. And that's just what the chats with director Jonathan Demme on this two-discer manage. There's a lot of the usual blather about how great everyone was, but there's also masses of insight into how Demme went about creating the film's subtle sense of serial-killer chic.

It's difficult to believe that, as smart and skilled a filmmaker as he seems here, Demme also churned out the worse-than-tosh The Trouble About Charlie. But when he talks about Lambs, there's a strong impression of a man in total control of his vision.

On how he brought the audience to identify with Clarice Starling: "Every single scene has Clarice's point of view in it." (Check it out - he's right). On how he amped up Hannibal Lecter's fear factor: "I had him deliver his speeches to Clarice direct to camera, as if he's staring straight into the audience's eyes." He also dissects the elegant, progressively tighter close-ups on Clarice and Lecter in their final scene - which is why there's a queasy sense of a love/hate affair.

Foster's no slouch, either. As her chatty, intelligent insights into the filmmaking process pile up, you quickly remember that she's a director in her own right - although we could probably do without knowing that the wild and kerazy Demme instituted 'Hawaiian shirt Friday' on the set. However, she's terrific on her own character, the film's doomy, uncompromising style and Demme's gutsy decision to cast Hopkins (arguing that no Method-trained American actor could have played the part as well) - well before the '90s box-office banker of Brit baddies vs Yankie goodies.

But since they're both so good, why the hell didn't anyone twist arms to get 'em to deliver a frickin' commentary? There isn't even a chat-track on the deleted scenes to explain why, say, footage of FBI head honcho Crawford (Scott Glenn) bullying some info out of a doctor was dropped, or what prompted the snipping out of a scene where Clarice gets reprimanded by her FBI bosses and taken off the case (trawl the docs for the answer: Demme's buddy William Goldman suggested axing it to hasten the movie into the final act).

That's the trouble with the whole oh-so-nearly killer package. What you get is hugely entertaining, despite the repetitions and throwaway nonsense (the Hopkins phone message is a waste of time). The new featurettes are sharply crafted, but it's what isn't here that grates. Where's Hopkins? He was keen enough to do two more films as Hannibal, but he only pops up briefly here on two of the docs (and one of those is from 1991). At the very least they might have phoned him to ask about the bit in the outtakes where, blood-spattered and in full Lecter costume, he launches into a note-perfect end-of-Rocky impersonation of Sylvester Stallone: "This one is for you, Paulie. And you, Adrieeeenne!"

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