Nov 12, 2009

Hannibal Lecter: "I'm having an old friend for dinner"

I love that joke.
I have been doing some homework as I attempt to write my way into the second draft of my first feature-length script, which means, as I'm never tired of explaining to horrified people, that writing it feels like giving birth to a cactus.
But the homework has been fun. It consists on watching thrillers, suspense movies, horror movies and serial killer movies. This is the kind of homework we are more than happy to do.
So far, we've studied some gems like Laura (the dialog is priceless), Strangers on a Train (something important happens every 2 minutes, almost on the dot), the fantastically brazen Blood Simple, and some fun new clunkers like Paranormal Activity and The House of the Devil. This last one may be the only movie I've ever seen that has terrible first and third acts framing a second act that scared the hell out of me. It also has Tom Noonan, which is always a good thing.
I saw Zodiac again, and again I didn't like it (what's with all the yellow?), but it has one excellent sequence (the killing of the couple in the car). I'm not a David Fincher fan, but Seven is also on the list.
Yesterday I saw The Silence of the Lambs. It had greatly impressed me on the big screen in Mexico. I remember it as being utterly sordid, Victorian and disturbing, and a lot of it stuck in my head after many years.
Well, it is not holding up too well. Some of the twists are too pat for such a supposedly smart film. But what makes the movie is Anthony Hopkins. It's a magnificent performance that still sells creepy Halloween masks after all these years.
I can see why Little Enchilada developed a crush on Dr. Lecter. He just breaks your heart. Hopkins pinches his voice, speaks like an angel, does not blink and has a very sexy sense of smell. Dr. Lecter's main problem is that he's so smart, he can't abide the humiliation of living in a stupid world. Why that translates into cannibalism, I've never understood. Would someone so smart be eating such stupid people? Even with white wine and fava beans? I don't buy it. But I do buy Hopkins' take on it. His rage at the vulgarity and stupidity of the world (dare I say Americans) knows no bounds. He makes you feel it. You understand him. He is totally coherent psychologically.
So is Clarice Starling, which I think is why the movie works. Otherwise no one would give a fuck about horrid Ted Levine (excellent, poor man) and his one size fits all American madness (he is gay, he is a transsexual, he has swastikas in his bedspread, he loves French Poodles, he sows, his kitchen is a mess). I was struck by Jodie Foster's rich, layered performance. She is a perfect partner for Hopkins. They have chemistry together. It's a wonderful love story. But I think Thomas Harris' fake, over the top American Gothic is not very convincing.

I must confess that every time I see the letters F.B.I, I want to work there. But do I have to run in the woods? That part, I don't like.

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