It isn’t hard to argue that Jonathan Demme was at his commercial peak in the early 90s, when his Oscar-winners The Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia both became widely discussed cultural events. Despite being the man behind other hits, like Stop Making Sense or Something Wild, he hasn’t been seen as much over the past ten years; much of his work in that time has been documentaries, while his biggest box office hit was The Manchurian Candidate.
Speaking at the 2nd Annual Aruba International Film Festival – where he was being honored for his documentary The Agronomist, about assassinated Haitian journalist Jean Dominick - he talked about his frustration with making movies on a big budget, and seemed to indicate that this is a territory he won’t be returning to.
Talking about people who put their short films on YouTube, he said how the people who are being “paid nothing to make films that cost nothing, to be shown for nothing” are doing something wonderful, and that “he’s not comfortable spending a lot of money on a movie anymore.” Even though he claims he’s “never gone over budget,” he said The Manchurian Candidate “cost a fortune.” His tone in saying this expressed a dissatisfaction with the whole process of making a movie on that scale.
But this doesn’t mean that he’s not done with filmmaking altogether; he has the Dave Eggers adaptation Zeitoun in the works, which is said to be animated, but any other word on that has been silent. He also planned to shoot a documentary about Arcade Fire last year, but the earthquake in Haiti (the movie’s planned shooting location) put a stop to that. There was also the planned Honeymoon with Harry, which would have starred Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro, but that fell apart.
I’m glad that he’s not completely giving up, because I think he’s one of the more unique, compelling cinematic voices of his generation. True, he’s directed some less-than-spectacular fare (such as The Truth About Charlie) but it would be stupid to forget some of his great accomplishments. Even if he’s not going to do more movies with budgets of $70 million, is that such a bad thing? His talents have been employed in more constrained settings plenty of times already without any problems arising.-Joey's Two Cents: I'm a big fan of Rachel Getting Married, so I know Demme is capable of fine work on a small scale...thoughts?