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JONATHAN DEMME,
1944-2017

Jonathan Demme, the filmmaker behind critically adored films in the 1980s and ‘90s such as Philadelphia and The Silence of the Lambs, who also excelled at music documentaries, died today of esophageal cancer and complications from heart disease in New York. He was 73.

Demme captured the Talking Heads in what is often considered one of the best concert films ever, Stop Making Sense, made three films with Neil Young and most recently captured Justin Timberlake on the final night of his 2015 tour in Justin Timberlake and the Tennessee Kids. He directed videos for UB40 and Chrissie Hynde and New Order, and helmed three for Bruce Springsteen, one of which was “Streets of Philadelphia,” the Oscar-winning opening song for his Philadelphia.

Beyond the documentaries, Demme had a strong musical sense in his scripted films. Besides Springsteen, Philadelphia boasted original contributions from Young, Peter Gabriel and Sade; his cult classic Something Wild was heavy on The Feelies and mid-‘80s new wave acts; and Married to the Mob featured early recordings from Sinead O’Connor and Chris Isaak. His second film, Crazy Mama, featured an expertly curated ‘50s soundtrack; 2002’s The Truth About Charlie was a deep dive into world music. Demme’s credits as a producer include the musical films That Thing You Do! and Song One.

His doc subjects covered a considerable range. After his first, 1984’s Stop Making Sense, he stayed away from the genre until his 1998 film on Robyn Hitchcock, Storefront Hitchcock, which he followed up with the three Neil Young concert docs: Heart of Gold (2006), Neil Young Trunk Show (2009) and Neil Young Journeys (2011). In 2012, his Kenny Chesney: Unstaged and Enzo Avitabile Music Life, about the Italian saxophonist-composer, were released.

Hitchcok tweeted “He loved people, he loved filming them; I am so sad to hear he's gone. RIP JD.”

Demme, who got his start in the early 1970s working for Roger Corman, won his one Oscar for directing The Silence of the Lambs.

 

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