Pop quiz, people: what’s the link between this Jonathan Demme film and Miloš Forman’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest from 1975?
Clue – it isn’t that they’re both set in mental asylums, although of course that is undoubtedly true; the answer is something more specific. Just like the magazine quiz in the Sunday papers, you can find the answer at the bottom of the page!
“Starling! Starling! Crawford wants to see you in his office.”
So begins one of the best films of the 1990’s, and arguably the best Thomas Harris adaptation. Hipsters will try and claim Michael Mann’s Manhunter (1986) – the first film adaptation of Harris’ Red Dragon – but that feels very dated now, compared to the later, admittedly duller, remake, Red Dragon (2002). Manhunter isn’t even the best Michael Mann film – surely that accolade would sit with Thief (1981) or Heat (1995).
While Manhunter introduced the character of Dr. Hannibal Lecter to the silver screen, Lambs stands head and shoulders apart from the earlier film and Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal is so different to Brian Cox’s version that it feels like a different character altogether.
Fresh off her Best Actress winning role in 1998’s The Accused, Jodie Foster plays Clarice Starling, a trainee FBI agent tasked with interviewing an incarcerate Lecter on the current serial killer at large, Buffalo Bill. Like all great films and television shows, the naive Starling acts as our guide into this world for which she isn’t ready.
Another clue for the pop quiz at the top of the page – the third film that links The Silence Of The Lambs and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is Frank Capra’s 1934 proto-romantic comedy It Happened One Night.
Even if you take away Lamb‘s most thrilling scene – the sequence involving Lecter’s escape from a heavily locked-down Tennessee courthouse – and the film’s many, many contributions to ‘90s popular culture, there’s still a lot to love. Howard Score’s musical score is very highly strung, with a recurring theme that resonates with Starling’s unease into Lecter and Buffalo Bill’s territory, every performance from the principals down to the support roles and bit-parts feels just right, and the film’s final switcheroo when Starling knocks on the door of a lead, while the FBI storm the house of their main suspect, is just wonderful – a cinematic device I’ve seen imitated many times since but never bettered.
The only aspect of the film now that doesn’t work as well as it might have done upon release is Demme’s use of extreme close-up. While this works with the voyeuristic theme of the film, in practice it feels a little too jarring, particularly when used in relatively benign scenes like, for example, the scene where Starling and her FBI colleagues watch the TV news press conference by the parents of Buffalo Bill’s latest victim.
“I do wish we could chat longer, but… I’m having an old friend for dinner. Bye.”
Hit: Main Title
Hidden Gem: The Cellar
ANSWER: All three films – It Happened One Night, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and The Silence Of The Lambs – won the ‘big five’ academy awards in their respective years: Best Picture, Best Director (Demme), Best Actor (Hopkins), Best Actress (Foster) and either of the two screenplay awards, in this case Best Adapted Screenplay (Ted Tally).
Now, while this is one of my tried and tested trivia facts, and something I’ve bored countless people with over the years, what I find even more interesting are the films which were nominated for the ‘big five’, but didn’t pull off a clean sweep like these three films did. As of the latest Academy Awards in February 2017, a total of forty three films have been nominated for the ‘big five’. The following list ranks each of the forty three by their number of wins in the ‘big five’ categories:
Gone With The Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939)
Mrs. Miniver (William Wyler, 1942)
Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977)
American Beauty (Sam Mendes, 1999)
From Here To Eternity (Fred Zinnemann, 1953)
The Apartment (Billy Wilder, 1960)
Network (Sidney Lumet, 1976)
Coming Home(Hal Ashby, 1978)
On Golden Pond(Mark Rydell, 1981)
Million Dollar Baby (Clint Eastwood, 2004)
Cimarron (Wesley Ruggles, 1931)
The Philadelphia Story (George Cukor, 1940)
Gentleman’s Agreement(Elia Kazan, 1947)
A Place In The Sun(George Stevens, 1951)
The Country Girl (George Seaton, 1954)
Room At The Top(Jack Clayton, 1959)
Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner (Stanley Kramer, 1967)
The Lion In The Winter(Anthony Harvey, 1968)
Rocky(John G. Avildsen, 1976)
The English Patient (Anthony Minghella, 1996)
La La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2016)
A Star Is Born (William A. Wellman, 1937)
Goodbye, Mr. Chips (Sam Woodm 1939)
Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940)
Johnny Belinda (Jean Negulesco, 1948)
Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950)
A Streetcar Named Desire (Elia Kazan, 1951(
Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? (Mike Nichols, 1967)
The Graduate (Mike Nicols, 1967)
Reds (Warren Beatty, 1981)
Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell, 2012)
Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (Richard Brooks, 1958)
The Hustler (Robert Rossen, 1961)
Bonnie And Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1967)
Love Story (Arthur Hiller, 1970)
Lenny (Bob Fosse, 1974)
Atlantic City (Louis Malle, 1981)
The Remains Of The Day (James Ivory, 1993)
American Hustle (David O. Russell, 2013)