Archive for FBI

THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991)

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 24, 2018 by cdascher

The_Silence_of_the_Lambs_posterCome with us, back to Valentine’s Day, 1991. All over America, suitors are planning the perfect romantic evening. Dinner perhaps? And look, a new spooky movie opening today. What better than a few scares and the winter chill to send that special someone into your arms! I think this Valentine’s Day is going to end very well, don’t you? Two hours of cannibalism, mutilation, flying semen and lotion-in-the-basket later, I’m pretty sure The Silence of the Lambs ruined thousands of first dates, but it was on its way to becoming a modern classic.

Let me start by addressing the obvious: This is a movie that wouldn’t be made today. It is undeniably transphobic. Jame Gumb – the only manifestly queer character – commits crimes that are inextricably linked to his gender dysmorphia. This is a world where being trans is pathology, and one that can be expressed violently. I want to acknowledge this, but I don’t want to spend too much time belaboring the point, castigating a movie from almost three decades ago. I’ll leave the subject behind by saying that in writing this, I’m genuinely second guessing which pronouns with which to use in discussing the film’s antagonist- evidence that we’re living in a future The Silence of the Lambs could not anticipate.

Silence is a thriller in the tradition of Hitchcock. It plays like a magic show, with audience expectation managed by misdirection. We start with a young woman jogging alone at dawn. Are we about to witness a crime? No, it’s Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) training for the physical requirements of her training. Buffalo Bill cuts off his victim’s clothes. Are we witnessing some sex crime? No, he has an entirely different and macabre agenda. Of course there is the famous switcheroo at the film’s climax, where we think the FBI team is raiding Buffalo Bill’s house, but no – Starling walking alone into the villain’s lair and her comrades are in an empty house hundreds of miles away.

The most crucial act of misdirection, though, falls to an actor. Anthony Hopkins is tasked with giving a portrayal Hannibal Lecter sufficiently engaging that our eyes never wander to the plausibility of a middle aged psychiatrist-turned-cannibal who can pick locks, escape detection and seemingly kill at will despite having no allies and a decade of only whatever exercise could be managed inside a small cell. The veteran actor’s perversely charismatic cannibal snob is what allows the movie to work. It was a career defining- and award winning- performance for a reason. It probably also helps explain why an earlier adaptation of the character, sans-Hopkins was not a success. Continue reading

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