Dave Davies, host:
While some filmmakers become known for a particular style or genre, the work of director Jonathan Demme is striking in it's sheer eclecticism. His films range from comedies like "Married to the Mob," to an exploration of AIDS discrimination in "Philadelphia" to his horror classic the "Silence of the Lambs," which won five Oscars in 1992. He's also done documentaries including the concert films "Stop Making Sense" with Talking Heads, and "Heart of Gold" featuring Neil Young and his 2007 film "Jimmy Carter: Man from Plains".
Demme's latest film "Rachel Getting Married" is a family drama shot in documentary style. It's just come out on DVD. The screenplay was written by Jenny Lumet, daughter of director Sidney Lumet and granddaughter of Lena Horne. "Rachel Getting Married" stars Anne Hathaway who plays Kym, a young women coming home from a drug rehab center to attend her sister Rachel's wedding. Kym's re-entry into the family leads to a number of painful confrontations and arguments in the middle of the wedding festivities.
Mostly between Kym and her sister Rachel. In this scene the sisters are fighting and their father is helplessly trying to bring them under control.
(Soundbite from movie, "Rachel Getting Married")
Ms. ROSEMARIE DEWITT (Actor): (as Rachel) I mean in the language of psychology, what's to say you both suffer from acute boundary issues.
Mr. BILL IRWIN (Actor): (as Paul) Rachel, it is very nice that you getting your PhD…
Ms. DEWITT: (as Rachel) Oh God.
Mr. IRWIN: Don't be patronizing. I'm sorry but it's not - it's ugly honey, and it's not becoming to you.
Ms. DEWITT: (as Rachel) What? How come she gets to spout off about paternal-sibling issues, but God forbid I should even reference the boundaries, even though I actually know what I'm talking about.
Ms. ANNE HATHAWAY (Actor): (as Kym) By the way I am not in crisis. I haven't been in crisis in a year.
Ms. DEWITT: You just got out of rehab.
Ms. HATHAWAY: Oh my God. Why is this so difficult for you to understand? Rehabilitation. Crisis. You should really learn the difference. No, it's like you are not happy unless I'm in some kind of a desperate situation. You have no idea what to do with me unless I'm in crisis. (unintelligible) (censored)
Ms. DEWITT: (as Rachel) You are so much more evolved in you are suffering.
Ms. HATHAWAY: I'm not - who is talking about that?
Ms. DEWITT: Your suffering is not the most important thing (unintelligible).
Ms. HATHAWAY: Who's saying it is?
Ms. DEWITT: I have a life. I'm in school. I am getting married. I'm…
Ms. HATHAWAY: What?
Ms. DEWITT: I'm pregnant.
(Soundbite of shouting)
Mr. IRWIN: (unintelligible) You're pregnant now?
Unidentified Man: (as character) Are you serious?
Ms. HATHAWAY: Oh my God.
(Soundbite of shouting)
DAVIES: I spoke to Jonathan Demme and Jenny Lumet last fall when "Rachel Getting Married" was released. Now, Jonathan Demme, this film is shot in a documentary style. I mean, we see a lot of hand held cameras in which, you know, the camera follows dialogue from one to another. Explain your approach in shooting this film.
Mr. JONATHAN DEMME (Director, "Rachel Getting Married"): Well, I think two things probably more then anything else. One is that over the years I put a lot of energy into trying to find the most time-honored way of bringing the audience into a scene through very, sort of, you know, with an eye on Hitchcock techniques and stuff like that. And really kind of, I think, sort of, on my own terms quote, unquote, "perfecting it." And meanwhile I just, you know, "Mean Streets" was the first time where I really, kind of went wow and saw - gosh, look at the way this picture has been shot, you know and I - the immediacy of that hand held camera and stuff and, you know, that hand held camera's been around before Martin Scorsese showed up especially in, you know, the Nouvelle Vague and films of John Cassavetes but there was this urgency and I felt myself feeling like, wow this is really happening the way Scorsese used it.
So, I've kind of admired that and I always try to get a little hand held into the movie. And then more recently I've been shooting a lot of documentaries with Declan Quinn…
Mr. DEMME: …one of the great cinematographers of all time. And after we did the - we did a documentary together about Jimmy Carter, "Jimmy Carter: Man From Plains," about a year and a half ago. And coming off of that the way that Declan's able to make what's really going on in real life feel so incredibly immediate and cinematic made me think, well, gosh let's shoot "Rachel Getting Married" like that.
Let's pretend it's - we're making a documentary. In fact, we won't even rehearse and we have to cast actors who are willing to not rehearse, to not know when the camera was going to be on them. And what we - the kind of feedback we are getting from the actors was they were really, really excited that -bout working this way that it really helped keep the spontaneity factor in full effect. That by not having, you know, blocked out shots and then repeated a blocked out shots as we were try to perfect every angle, it kept them feeling as much as possible that this was really going on. And, you know, the one thing that Declan and I thought would be great, and one thing he really wanted to do was - operating on the premise that almost - almost every single scene here - in theory, someone could've had a little home movie camera with them, including the family arguments, and if one was perverse enough they could film these little arguments. And that's just the way it went forth.
DAVIES: This film has something which is unique in cinema, as far as I know, which is a duel on who can best load a dishwasher.
(Soundbite of laughter)
DAVIES: Which is a funny moment in which Rachel's dad and I guess the groom in the wedding get into this argument about who knows how to better load a dishwasher. Jenny Lumet, where does that come from?
Ms. JENNY LUMET (Screenwriter, "Rachel Getting Married"): That is completely pilfered. It - I grew up how I grew up and it wasn't like, you know, famous people were crawling out from under the sink when I got home from school, but every now and again, there was a great artist in the house. And one time, the director Bob Fosse was in the house for dinner. And see, you have to - this is a very - Bob Fosse is - I was a little girl, I was 11 or 12 - and this is a very languid, long graceful man. And the whole being, sort of, ends and extends to the cigarette in the fingertips. And, sort of, ends with the cigarette in the fingertips. And even the smoke is graceful around this man. And he has dressed all in black, black Cashmere sweater, over the shoulders, you know, black shirt, black pants, and this beautiful goatee. And there is my dad, who looks likes a cantaloupe, completely spherical, with like a big tummy, wearing a sweat suit with like vinaigrette stains all over him.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. LUMET: And there is after dinner, and my dad is loading the dishwasher, and Bob Fosse takes a big drag of this, you know, a Gauloises or whatever it was he was smoking - You know, Sidney, if you put the salad bowls in the upper level, you'll get 10 percent more stuff in your dishwasher. And my dad, who is five feet three, looks up at him and goes, Bob, go hmmm. I don't think I can say that on the radio. And so there then, there we have this - and for the next hour and a half these guys, who one would think would have something else to talk about other than loading the dishwasher, went at it like two people caught in the grips of the worst OCD on the planet, with Bob Fosse turning the tines on the fork upside down and calling Sidney a barbarian and Sidney saying, Oh, you're a - what do you know, dancer boy? I mean it was so demented, so demented. And I did not remember it because I am prescient and thought a-ha, I will use this, you know, decades later. I remembered it because it was psychotic and disturbing behavior.
DAVIES: We're listening back to a recent interview with screenwriter Jenny Lumet and director Jonathan Demme. Their film "Rachel Getting Married" has just come out on DVD. I also talked to Demme about his 1991 Academy Award-winning film "The Silence of the Lambs," starring Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster. Let's hear a clip from the film.
(Soundbite of movie, "Silence of the Lambs")
Ms. JODIE FOSTER (Actor): (As Clarice Starling) Dr. Lecter, who's head is in that bottle?
Mr. ANTHONY HOPKINS (Actor): (As Dr. Hannibal Lecter) Why don't you ask me about Buffalo Bill?
Ms. FOSTER: (As Clarice Starling) Do you know something about him?
Mr. HOPKINS: (As Dr. Hannibal Lecter) I might if I saw the case file. You could get that for me.
Ms. FOSTER: (As Clarice Starling) Why don't we talk about Miss Moffet? You wanted me to find him.
Mr. HOPKINS: (As Dr. Hannibal Lecter) His real name is Benjamin Raspail, a former patient of mine whose romantic attachments ran to, shall we say, the exotic. I did not kill him, I assure you, merely tucked him away, very much as I found him after he'd missed three appointments.
Ms. FOSTER: (As Clarice Starling) If you didn't kill him, then who did, sir?
Mr. HOPKINS: (As Dr. Hannibal Lecter) Who can say? Best thing for him, really. His therapy was going nowhere.
DAVIES: I wanted to talk to you just a little bit about "The Silence of the Lambs." It's the film - it goes back a few years in your career, 1991, but it swept the Oscars. And I read in an interview at the time that Janet Maslin said that it was your opinion that every director dreams of making a film more terrifying than anything he has ever seen. Is that true or was that just something you tossed off at the time?
Mr. DEMME: Well, I'll - what I can tell you is that - that I know when I saw "Zodiac" and then again when I saw "No Country For Old Men," there was a moment in each of my viewing experiences where I went, damn it, this is scarier than "Silence of the Lambs." So I guess on a certain level that there's something there, yes.
DAVIES: You've been topped again.
Mr. DEMME: Yeah.
DAVIES: One of the hallmarks of some of your films is shooting scenes where characters look directly into the camera or almost directly into the camera. And I'm wondering, is there a particular reason or purpose for that technique when you use it? I mean I see it in "The Manchurian Candidate," the film you did a few years ago.
Mr. DEMME: Yes. That is - the use of the subjective camera is an idea that's been around in movies for a long, long time. And that's an idea that was seized on very notably by Sam Fuller and by Alfred Hitchcock in two different very kind of otherwise very different styles of filmmaking. And the whole point, according to Hitchcock - and it's right - is that, you know, if you go subjective camera, you are for that moment putting the audience in the shoes of the character. You're showing the audience and making the audience share exactly what it's like to see what the character sees. So Tak Fujimoto and I, when we started getting enough of a budget where we could afford the right lenses, because we started out doing low budget pictures together, we started experimenting with the subjective camera thing and we kind of fell in love with the idea of using that as our close-up. Instead of having the camera slightly off to the side, our thing was, well, maybe by using subjective camera in ordinary dialogue situations, you know, we can bring the audience that deeply into the film that way. And we were afraid that it might be kind of off-putting or call attention to itself, but we found out - "Married to the Mob" was the first time we did it, and nobody commented. The scenes that we used it went really well. No one found fault with it.
So when we did "Silence of the Lambs," we really wanted to town with it. We just started using subjective camera for every dialogue scene, trying to pull the audience deeply, as deeply as you possibly could, into the scene. So it was really an aggressive way to pursue intense audience involvement.
Now, in this movie we didn't use - in "Rachel Getting Married" there's no subjective camera. This time the energy and the effort to draw the audience as deeply as possible into the movie comes from making them feel that what they're seeing actually happened. And in this way we try to take advantage of that -kind of that truth factor that comes along with looking at your home movies. This really happened. Look how shaky the camera is. Or we tried to make - not too shaky. But that's how we tried to really galvanize the audience into believing what they were seeing and to getting as involved as possible.
DAVIES: Director Jonathan Demme. We also spoke with screenwriter Jenny Lumet. Their film "Rachel Getting Married," starring Anne Hathaway, is now out on DVD. Coming up, David Edelstein on the new comedy "I Love You, Man" and the thriller "Duplicity." This is FRESH AIR.