The Amazing Talent of Jonathan Demme

Sometimes it’s just a moment. A scene. A glimpse into something that resonates deep inside of you. And in that moment that scene becomes a memory that never leaves you. Over this past week I’ve thought about one of those “moments” a lot. It has to do with the film “Philadelphia” and it has everything to do with the amazing talent of Jonathon Demme. As you know Mr. Demme left us last week at the young age of 73. He spent a lifetime entertaining us with thoughtful, intelligent and extremely entertaining and satisfying films. You don’t find a lot of filmmakers today like him. Nor will we ever. But let’s get back to that scene, that moment.

The camera dollies in from atop a normal street in Philadelphia. Row homes. People are walking into a home and you begin to hear the beginning of the Neil Young song “Philadelphia” begin to play. It’s the piano that opens the song as the camera goes into the house where we see that the folks have come to give their condolences to the family of Tom Hanks who has just died of AIDS. The camera sloe pans around the room. Family members converse with friends. New babies are held. There are smiles and hugs and yes there are tears. And in the backdrop is the achingly haunting Young song “City of brotherly love, Place I call home, Don’t turn your back on me, I don’t want to be alone.” I cannot watch this scene without losing it. Really losing it. I was an emotional wreck for quite some time after seeing this film when it premiered in Philadelphia. Demme brought these people into our lives and showed us that they were just like us. Just like us!

There are many moments like these in Demme’s films. If you haven’t seen them yet look up “Handle with Care” and “Melvin and Howard”. Two almost forgotten works of art from his early years. And of course do not forget the ground breaking “Stop Making Sense”.

I never met Jonathon Demme, but in reading the outpouring of love he received upon his passing it’s quite obvious he was one of the incredibly good guys in a business where there are so few like him. We won’t have his films to look forward to anymore but we will have his body of work that we can revisit forever. RIP Mr. Demme. And thanks for the moments you gave me. Take a look at what I am talking about.