Jonathan Demme (1944-2017)

Discuss films and filmmakers of the 20th century (and even a little of the 19th century). Threads may contain spoilers.
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tojoed
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2008 11:47 am
Location: Cambridge, England

Re: Jonathan Demme (1944-2017)

#26 Post by tojoed » Thu Apr 27, 2017 12:54 pm

Thanks hearthesilence, absolutely lovely. Demme is as charming as I imagined he would be.

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whaleallright
Joined: Sun Sep 25, 2005 12:56 am

Re: Jonathan Demme (1944-2017)

#27 Post by whaleallright » Fri Apr 28, 2017 8:38 pm

I'll join the chorus of regret here. Demme always seemed like an unusually optimistic, open-minded, and generous person. I've had such a pleasant time over the years watching interviews or listening to audio commentaries with him that I feel a more-than-usual pang of sadness from the death of someone I didn't know personally. I remember remarking a few years ago that it was astonishing that Demme was 70 years old, because he had the demeanor of someone just coming up. In that way I half expected a few more career highlights, not to mention comebacks, from him, like he had 20 or more years to go.
..."Citizen's Band", which is so difficult to see these days.
Are there, as they say, "rights issues" with this film, or is it just plain obscure? I've seen this in probably the same straight-from-cable rip that everyone else has probably seen, and it never gets revived (I've encouraged a few film societies to program it, and they always say they can't locate a print). It's as noteworthy for its screenplay by Paul Brickman (he of the great Risky Business and little else) as for being Demme's first "non-genre" film. Although Brickman disliked what Demme did with it, it's a very appealing movie, almost like an Altman film—with its dovetailing strands of eccentric Americana—but in a more quotidian, humanist key.

It's funny to see the very MOR soundtrack to this film (Richie Havens, Joe Cocker) in light of what came later. It wasn't really until Stop Making Sense that Demme's adventurous tastes in music became a major part of his filmmaking, although he was following the "new wave" all along (see his video for Suburban Lawns ca. 1980). One of the most appealing things about Demme was this figure who was simultaneously at the top of the Hollywood game, making Oscar-winning films with major stars, and a man so eager to share his many obscure passions.

Speaking of obscurities, it's worth checking out Demme's episode of Columbo, "Murder Under Glass," starring Louis Jourdan as a homicidal restaurant critic. Not really one for the auteurists, but lots of big close-ups of late-70s haute cuisine.

Image

Finally: the director's cut of Swing Shift—in the rough-cut video version that Jonathan Rosenbaum and others have referenced—just turned up in backchannels, so now we can judge for ourselves.

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jazzo
Joined: Sun Nov 17, 2013 12:02 am

Re: Jonathan Demme (1944-2017)

#28 Post by jazzo » Fri Apr 28, 2017 9:06 pm

Is it foolish to ask what those back channels may be? I'm dying to see this, and have been for years, but all of my more intense online searches simply bring up others asking the same question on message boards or articles. I'll happily accept a PM.

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hearthesilence
Joined: Fri Mar 04, 2005 4:22 am
Location: NYC

Re: Jonathan Demme (1944-2017)

#29 Post by hearthesilence » Fri Apr 28, 2017 9:18 pm

whaleallright wrote:
..."Citizen's Band", which is so difficult to see these days.
Are there, as they say, "rights issues" with this film, or is it just plain obscure? I've seen this in probably the same straight-from-cable rip that everyone else has probably seen, and it never gets revived (I've encouraged a few film societies to program it, and they always say they can't locate a print). It's as noteworthy for its screenplay by Paul Brickman (he of the great Risky Business and little else) as for being Demme's first "non-genre" film. Although Brickman disliked what Demme did with it, it's a very appealing movie, almost like an Altman film—with its dovetailing strands of eccentric Americana—but in a more quotidian, humanist key.
No, just poorly distributed. Lincoln Center has screened a 35mm print in recent years (see my previous post with the Q&A) and it's available as VOD. For instance, you can rent it here on YouTube or you can rent it here on Amazon. In both links, you can even outright purchase a stream of it as well.

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whaleallright
Joined: Sun Sep 25, 2005 12:56 am

Re: Jonathan Demme (1944-2017)

#30 Post by whaleallright » Fri Apr 28, 2017 9:26 pm

Huh, thanks. I guess it pays to check Amazon etc. every so often. Last I had checked the film was unavailable. Does the SD stream look OK? Is it widescreen?

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The Narrator Returns
Joined: Tue Nov 15, 2011 6:35 pm

Re: Jonathan Demme (1944-2017)

#31 Post by The Narrator Returns » Fri Apr 28, 2017 9:35 pm

I would also like to be directed in private towards these backchannels with the director's cut of Swing Shift.

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hearthesilence
Joined: Fri Mar 04, 2005 4:22 am
Location: NYC

Re: Jonathan Demme (1944-2017)

#32 Post by hearthesilence » Fri Apr 28, 2017 9:36 pm

whaleallright wrote:Huh, thanks. I guess it pays to check Amazon etc. every so often. Last I had checked the film was unavailable. Does the SD stream look OK? Is it widescreen?
GOOD question, because I can't remember the correct aspect ratio or whether this stream even uses the correct ratio. Anybody?

FWIW, here are the opening titles displayed in academy ratio. Not sure of the source on this video - VHS perhaps?

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GaryC
Joined: Fri Mar 28, 2008 3:56 pm
Location: Aldershot, Hampshire, UK

Re: Jonathan Demme (1944-2017)

#33 Post by GaryC » Sat Apr 29, 2017 3:05 am

hearthesilence wrote:
whaleallright wrote:Huh, thanks. I guess it pays to check Amazon etc. every so often. Last I had checked the film was unavailable. Does the SD stream look OK? Is it widescreen?
GOOD question, because I can't remember the correct aspect ratio or whether this stream even uses the correct ratio. Anybody?

FWIW, here are the opening titles displayed in academy ratio. Not sure of the source on this video - VHS perhaps?
IIRC the OAR is 1.85:1. I saw it on UK TV many years ago. Amazon UK have it in SD so I may well watch it later.

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JamesF
Joined: Thu Mar 04, 2010 1:36 pm

Re: Jonathan Demme (1944-2017)

#34 Post by JamesF » Sat Apr 29, 2017 8:56 am

I'd also love the opportunity to see Demme's cut of Swing Shift - one only hopes it'll be distributed more widely in future (legally or otherwise) and that Demme might be finally vindicated. I'd love to do a split-screen comparison between both versions.

My first Demme film was Stop Making Sense, and it still might be my favourite.

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GaryC
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Re: Jonathan Demme (1944-2017)

#35 Post by GaryC » Sun Apr 30, 2017 2:48 am

Amazon UK's copy of Citizens Band (no apostrophe on screen) is 4:3 and clearly open-matte. It's probably NTSC as its running time is 95:41, which is more or less the cinema running time. (95:36 according to the BBFC when they passed it for cinema release in 1981.) I'd previously only seen the film on a TV broadcast, most likely the BBC2 showing in 1988. I ended up watching this, my old Criterion DVD of The Silence of the Lambs and my DVD of Stop Making Sense.

I saw Swing Shift at the NFT, inevitably the released version, a long time ago. I don't remember much of it now.

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hearthesilence
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Re: Jonathan Demme (1944-2017)

#36 Post by hearthesilence » Sun Apr 30, 2017 1:00 pm

FWIW, as one can see from a screencap posted in the film's own thread, Demme's cut of Swing Shift survived only as a VHS dub with burned-in timecode and what I'm guessing is a pan-and-scan presentation. The sound mix and color is also going to be a bit rough since they wouldn't do any of that until they got an approved, picture-locked cut.

The Sight & Sound article details the changes pretty thoroughly, but I'm guessing 50-70% of the picture used in Demme's cut probably survives in the released cut. (A lot of the damage was done by massive resequencing, which is why at least a good bit of the raw material needed to restore Demme's cut would be available.) With that in mind, I'm wondering if it would be worth combining the two to get the best of both worlds? It would be jarring, there's no mistaking that - it wouldn't be so bad going from a scene to a previously completely discarded scene, but as detailed in that article, there are single shots taken out, and at least a few long takes that were severely trimmed.

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domino harvey
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Re: Jonathan Demme (1944-2017)

#37 Post by domino harvey » Sun Apr 30, 2017 1:14 pm

Open matte, not pan and scan

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furbicide
Joined: Thu Dec 29, 2011 4:52 am

Re: Jonathan Demme (1944-2017)

#38 Post by furbicide » Mon May 01, 2017 1:33 pm

I'm yet to see any of Demme's feature film work, but I just realised that he was responsible for one of my all-time favourite music videos (New Order – The Perfect Kiss):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x3XW6NLILqo" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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