Who Wins The Scene
October 18, 2014 7:23 AM   Subscribe

Who wins the scene.... Tony Zhou dissects the initial Clarice/Hannibal scene in Silence Of The Lambs. More of Zhou's work can be found on his website "Every Frame a Painting".
posted by HuronBob (26 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
 
I really enjoyed How to Do Visual Comedy as well.
posted by igowen at 7:45 AM on October 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


Hannibal, of course. He won the whole movie, but that doesn't mean Clarice lost. They both got what they wanted and arguably, needed.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:46 AM on October 18, 2014


Good stuff as always, from Mr. Zhou.

Silence of the Lambs is an astonishingly well-made movie. The cast and crew captured lightning in a bottle: there's no obvious reason why this movie should have become a classic, and yet it did. The top-level editing certainly helps.

I also find it interesting that many people I know who otherwise dislike scary movies have no problem with it: it's a horrific thriller, but it's also a rousing thriller, with a brave, sympathetic hero.

I once read somewhere that Morgan Freeman had almost been cast as Hannibal Lecter, and that he was quite bitter when he didn't get it. I wish I could find a cite for this.

Also, obligatory.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:48 AM on October 18, 2014 [7 favorites]


I love Silence, I love Demme, and I love Zhou's video. TRIPLE WIN. This is basically a quick master lesson in shooting a tense conversation.

I did something similar wi Manhunter Vs. Red Dragon since they have almost the exact same script for the "Hannibal Lecter meeting" scene. tl;dr : Mann is a careful director who thinks about the character's mental state from beat to beat and Brett Ratner is ...not.
posted by The Whelk at 7:53 AM on October 18, 2014 [8 favorites]


Another Demme film, Stop Making Sense, recently celebrated its 30th bday. Even knowing he had nothing to do with the staging -Byrne's show was already set- his filming of it is pure genius. The incredibly (for modern sensibilities) extended long shot on David Byrne in Once in a Lifetime would never ever happen today. It's 85% of the song. Just...some people just have it.
posted by umberto at 8:44 AM on October 18, 2014 [6 favorites]


Also, Mann freaking stomps on Red Dragon. With giant hobnail director boots. The scene where Petersen realizes the killer has seen the home movies... sometimes I pull that up and just watch that. It's a jolt. Riveting. Plus making Tangerine Dream cool...? Not easy.
posted by umberto at 8:55 AM on October 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


Silence of the Lambs is an astonishingly well-made movie. The cast and crew captured lightning in a bottle: there's no obvious reason why this movie should have become a classic, and yet it did. The top-level editing certainly helps.

This. I actually had not seen the movie till quite recently. (As a kid, I fell asleep partway through it.)

I found myself just shocked by how good it is. I somehow got used to thinking of thrillers as clunky, artless and clich├ęd. But Demme &co. are able to take those materials and make magic. Curmudgeon that I am, I take this as further indictment of the rest of the contemporary cinema.
posted by grobstein at 9:35 AM on October 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


If you liked Silence, do try Manhunter, it's on Netflix streaming. It's a very ...personal take on the thriller genre ( the source material is the book that Silence was a sequel to but they only share a few characters) but a very rewarding film, especially if you like Micheal Mann's style.
posted by The Whelk at 9:48 AM on October 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


I also find it interesting that many people I know who otherwise dislike scary movies have no problem with it

Yeah. I'm not a huge fan of scary movies generally, but I saw this seven times in the theater. I kept grabbing friends and saying YOU MUST SEE THIS and also I will go with you.

However.

I was shocked to discover a few years later that as the new mother of a young female human, I could not be in the same room while someone was watching it and I had to work really really hard to get any thought of it out of my head if ever it popped in. I got better eventually, and broke my fast by showing said young female human the film when she was quite ridiculously old. She liked it and I did not get the screaming fantods, so, win.

Morgan Freeman had almost been cast as Hannibal Lecter, and that he was quite bitter when he didn't get it

I have the hardest time with Morgan Freeman as a bad guy, so I guess I'm glad he didn't get it? And Anthony Hopkins does crazy real good.

Thanks, HuronBob - I hadn't seen Tony Zhou before, and this was awesome, and loads more awesome to discover.
posted by you must supply a verb at 10:04 AM on October 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


Anthony Hopkins does crazy real good.

Hopkins is more scary here because his Lecter doesn't present as crazy: for most of the movie he's very still, measured, controlled. He keeps his inner state concealed. The one moment we see it revealed clearly is his dismay at Migg's discourtesy.

The book describes Lecter as agile, fast, like a cat. But Hopkins and Demme keep that checked until the moment that Lecter very quickly whips the handcuff onto the guard's wrist. It's a really good physical performance.

(An aside: I always thought the "fava beans and a nice Chianti" delivery was a bit of a mis-step. It's memorable, but it's over-played, almost pantomime.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 10:29 AM on October 18, 2014 [5 favorites]


Yeah, it's a fantastic movie. I loved this analysis of such a key scene. I, too, can't watch most horror movies, but loved this one. Definitely going to check out the website.
posted by annsunny at 10:40 AM on October 18, 2014


As a voracious reader, this was perhaps the first piece of cinema that I ever felt did justice to the novel on which it's based. In fact, having read the book first (as I try to do for all films when possible), I thought I knew exactly what to expect by Act 3, but I audibly gasped when Tally's screenplay suddenly and expertly departed from Harris' text.
posted by johnnyace at 11:06 AM on October 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


Demme was apparently a mega fan of Harris' novels and tried to film it ver-batim-as written until it became apparently it would be like five hours long (that being said I'm a little miffed Ardelia has like one scene and I don't think she talks? It makes Clarice seem even more isolated, which is probably for the best but stilllllll)
posted by The Whelk at 11:44 AM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


I always thought the "fava beans and a nice Chianti" delivery was a bit of a mis-step. It's memorable, but it's over-played, almost pantomime.

I've been back and forth on that for a long time... I want to think that was deliberate, a choice of Lecter's (/Hopkins') - something like double irony? Like a mocking of other peoples' perception of him while making the Don't Fuck With Me point? I don't know how to describe it. Hopkins and Lecter are both too intelligent for that to be a mistake. And I don't think he would have hit 'Chianti' the way he did (as well as the 'oh holy crap actual english people make a yummy noise like that irl i might have preferred not to ever learn that small fact sweet mother of god' noise) if he (Lecter) wasn't playing the line panto on purpose.
posted by you must supply a verb at 12:15 PM on October 18, 2014 [6 favorites]


Ardelia does have lines but it's really just a few, and almost all of them are in the scene where they're reading over what Lecter gave Clarise from his cell ("desperately random" etc.)

I've seen this movie probably a dozen times since it came out, at least twice with the sound off so I'd be forced to pay attention to the framing, camera moves, and editing, and I think I still don't have anything as perceptive to say about it as Zhou does.
posted by johnofjack at 1:04 PM on October 18, 2014


I also was a HUGE fan of horror movies until I had a baby girl in 2000. Then I couldn't watch them at all... No explaining it. I recently watched SOTL with that baby girl who is now a very mature 14.... She caught so many nuances I missed.... It is an amazing film..... I haven't seen Zhou's work before but my Saturday night will be exploring more. Thanks!!
posted by pearlybob at 2:35 PM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


Sticherbeast: ...there's no obvious reason why this movie should have become a classic, and yet it did. The top-level editing certainly helps.

Well, that, and the acting. And a great script. Good director. Well-fleshed out characters.

But aside from that, what have the Romans ever done for us?

(Well, yes, obviously the empowered victim upsetting the usual helpless-damsel trope. That goes without saying.)
posted by IAmBroom at 2:50 PM on October 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


Being a Port Talbot boy I'll always love Hopkins but Brian Cox's Lektor is far more chilling than Hopkins' Lecter.
That said, Mann and Demme with Hopkins and Cox is a bit like comparing a Led Zeppelin cover of a Miles Davis track or something, it's geniuses all the way down.
posted by fullerine at 3:02 PM on October 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


I got into this a bit in my article but Hopkins plays Lecter both bemused and enticing, he'll jab you but just to see how you react, his manner is very calm, controlled and kind of above it all - which is why his sudden twist into violence is so shocking, he has that sing-song voice and gentle infection.

Cox's alecter however doesn't have to surprise us in the end. He's superior and abrasive, all barbs and contempt - a caged animal, not a cat playing with a mouse. He's trying to keep you on your toes not lull you in.

Some of this are the actors' choices - we spend a lot less time with Cox's Lecter and he's presented as this frightening, almost alien intelligence. But some of it is also we've had a lot of time for Hopkins' Lecter to slide into camp and parody - and he was in two whole other movies with kind of increasing levels of self-parody going on. It colors the original performance in the way that everybody knows what happens in the shower in Pyscho.

( and of course Mads Mikkelsen's Lecter, who is basically Dracula.)
posted by The Whelk at 3:18 PM on October 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


I've always thought of Lambs in the same category as The Godfather or Jaws, where a brilliant director took a piece of well-made but somewhat trashy popular fiction and elevated it to greatness.
posted by octothorpe at 7:59 PM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


Just watch Manhunter--wasn't bad.

Does anyone else wonder why cereals are next to cans of something and jam and jellies are next to coffee in what looks like an enormous grocery store (in the scene where the Peterson character has the talk with his son)?
posted by pjmoy at 8:02 PM on October 18, 2014


Eh The Godfather and Jaws where both kind of shitty books (I was bored at a Summer camp and read both!) Harris' stuff has a real purple gothic grandeur and characterization (Clarice is wonderful and amazing and I love her and all of her bad choices) that I think it deserves exception

Well Red Dragon and Silence Of The Lambs, Hannibal and Hannibal Rising are kind of crap and bonkers and written under duress.
posted by The Whelk at 8:27 PM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'll admit that I never actually managed to finish a Harris novel so I'm probably not the best critic of them.
posted by octothorpe at 8:35 PM on October 18, 2014


I feel like Harris' books are either they don't click with you or they CLICK REALLY WELL.

Like I love that the current Hannibal NBC production is basically made up of Harris fanboys making live action fanfiction.
posted by The Whelk at 8:53 PM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


For me, the biggest problem with "Manhunter" is that they spend the whole movie doing this "get inside the head of the killer" pop psych thing. So, it's roughly 2 hours of woo and in the end, all that woo was a useless waste of time because they catch they guy by just looking at the labels from the film shop he worked at. Which, if they had done that actual detective work in the beginning, instead of riding the Woo train to Woosville, the film would be 5 minutes long.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:03 PM on October 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


Darn it, Fuzzybutt, I had just put "Manhunter" on my watch list....! A spoiler warning next time, perhaps??? :(
posted by HuronBob at 5:35 AM on October 19, 2014


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