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The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of The Lambs  

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  1. 1. Does "The Silence of The Lambs" belong on the AFI list?

    • Yes ūüźĎ
      16
    • No ūüćĖ
      3

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  • Poll closed on 05/17/19 at 07:00 AM

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Posted (edited)

Paul & Amy dig into 1991's serial killer thriller The Silence Of The Lambs! They praise the many ways the film puts us in Clarice Starling's head, discover the inspirations for Hannibal Lecter's voice, and learn how Buffalo Bill was originally received by LGBT activists. Plus: former detective Paul Holes of the Murder Squad podcast explains what Silence of The Lambs gets right abour criminal profiling.

 

Who should play Atticus FInch in a modern adaptation of To Kill A Mockingbird? Call the Unspooled voicemail line at 747-666-5824 with your answer! Follow us on Twitter @Unspooled, get more info at unspooledpod.com and don’t forget to rate, review & subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts. Photo credit: Kim Troxall

Edited by DanEngler

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Great episode as always but how did Brooke Smith's name not even come up?

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I remember the movie really being very shocking and disturbing at the time it came out.  I left the film ill to my stomach, which seems almost silly compared to modern cinema.  Yet, watching it again, it still manages to disturb me.  While I'd argue that this is more "thriller" than "horror", the pure lack of representation of either on the list have me voting "yes".   That aside, this film definitely holds up to the test of time.  I like Paul and Amy's discussion about the direction, and how it's very adept because we don't notice it.  Also enjoyed comparison of the darkness of SotL vs. the bleak nihilism of "Se7en".  Very astutely noticed, that!

 

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I want to defend Scott Glenn not wanting to return.

1. Hannibal is a terrible sequel

2. He also listened to audio tapes from the Toolbox Killers to get into the mind of an FBI agent. If you've heard anything about them, got to be awful to have heard that and get into that again. 

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I'm a little surprised that Manhunter didn't come up in the episode.  Anthony Hopkins' take on Lector was quite different from Brian Cox's version of the character; yet Manhunter is such an interesting flick regardless.

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29 minutes ago, JeffreyMcDonald said:

I'm a little surprised that Manhunter didn't come up in the episode.  Anthony Hopkins' take on Lector was quite different from Brian Cox's version of the character; yet Manhunter is such an interesting flick regardless.

Yeah, the hipster movie fan opinion for some time has been, "Brian Cox's subtle intellectual Lecter was so much better than Hopkins' over-the-top performance."

I think both interpretations are valid and work for the movie they're in. IMO, a lot of people incorrectly interpret "subtle" acting as automatically "better" acting. Not so.

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Go back and watch the Screaming Lambs scene. From the moment Hannibal asked Clarice about this episode, he never blinks and Clarice only blinks once through the whole scene. It's really disturbing. While I'm sure this was accomplished with creative editing, it's still a great way to make you squirm. 

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Haven't listened yet, but watched it again.

  • So many closeups of faces.
  • I loved Foster's accent. You don't get that when you see a dub.
  • Not sneaky edit: The pictures in the music box. Only a woman could know that, right?
  • The killer being adrogynus and decorating his house with Swastikas made me think of David Bowie. But he "Just" gave a Hitler salute to a crowd in Great Britain.

https://listverse.com/2017/07/17/10-musicians-or-bands-that-flirted-with-nazism/

Didn't know that Brian Jones did a foto shoot with a SS uniform. And Siouxee and the Banshee.... Ehm. https://proxy.duckduckgo.com/iu/?u=http%3A%2F%2Flistverse.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2017%2F07%2FSiouxsie-and-the-Banshees.jpg&f=1

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I wasn't sure if I was going to vote for this one, but a re-watch confirmed it. They touched on this in the podcast episode, but I do think Silence of the Lambs was the precursor and original inspiration for all of the "true crime" and serial-killer movies that happened in the 90s and beyond. The entire visual style of The X-Files seems lifted from this movie, something I hadn't really understood before (though I certainly could tell that Agent Scully's first-season hairstyle was inspired by Clarice Starling).

The stuff with the trans/cross-dressing serial killer is still a bit problematic, but honestly I expected that to play worse than it did. I noted that they do have Clarice and Hannibal discuss Buffalo Bill's particular psychology and state outright that real transsexuals tend to be non-violent and that Bill is something else. So it's more sensitive than you might think, if you are paying attention to the details.

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56 minutes ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

TheÔĽŅ stuff with the trans/cross-dressing serial killer is still a bit problematic, but honestly I expected that to play worse than it did. I noted that they do have Clarice and Hannibal discuss Buffalo Bill's particular psychology and state outright that real transsexuals tend to be non-violent and that Bill is something else. So it's more sensÔĽŅitive than you might think, if you are paying attention to the details.

There‚Äôs also a line where Clarice is told that Bill was rejected for sexual reassignment based on his psychological tests. I think this is one of those lines that one reviewer was criticizing, but it did go a long way to alleviate some of my concerns. Essentially, the movie wasn‚Äôt saying, ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs¬†crazy because he¬†wants¬†to be transitioned,‚ÄĚ but rather ‚ÄúHe¬†wasn‚Äôt¬†¬†transitioned¬†because he was so¬†crazy.‚ÄĚ It might seem like a bit of semantics, but I think there‚Äôs a world of difference between saying¬†‚Äúhere‚Äôs a psychotic,¬†trans person‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúhere‚Äôs a psychotic person - who happens to be trans.‚ÄĚ

Granted, I am totally speaking from a place of cisgendered, male privilege and this doesn’t really get into the issue of representation at all. It definitely matters if the only time trans people even show up in a movie is to play either a psychopath or a punchline. I think this has (maybe?) gotten a little better, but excluding maybe The World According to Garp, I think this was especially true of the time.

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33 minutes ago, Cameron H. said:

There‚Äôs also a line where Clarice is told that Bill was rejected for sexual reassignment based on his psychological tests. I think this is one of those lines that one reviewer was criticizing, but it did go a long way to alleviate some of my concerns. Essentially, the movie wasn‚Äôt saying, ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs¬†crazy because he¬†wants¬†to be transitioned,‚ÄĚ but rather ‚ÄúHe¬†wasn‚Äôt¬†¬†transitioned¬†because he was so¬†crazy.‚ÄĚ It might seem like a bit of semantics, but I think there‚Äôs a world of difference between saying¬†‚Äúhere‚Äôs a psychotic,¬†trans person‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúhere‚Äôs a psychotic person - who happens to be trans.‚ÄĚ

Granted, I am totally speaking from a place of cisgendered, male privilege and this doesn’t really get into the issue of representation at all. It definitely matters if the only time trans people even show up in a movie is to play either a psychopath or a punchline. I think this has (maybe?) gotten a little better, but excluding maybe The World According to Garp, I think this was especially true of the time.

I don't necessarily think of Buffalo Bill as being trans anymore than I think of Francis Dolarhyde in Red Dragon as a (dragon) furry. On the surface, yes, their mental illness looks like a trans person or a furry but I don't think that's what they are.

I get why a trans person or even a trans ally would have a problem with Buffalo Bill. The complaints are absolutely fair and valid.

I'm not a psychologist and not even an armchair expert on any of this stuff. So, I can't make any kind of diagnosis or explain the difference on a psychiatric level. But I guess I'd say it's similar to saying Ocean's 11 is about a kleptomaniac or Norman Bates has an Oedipus complex.

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Paul and Amy made it sound like Anthony Hopkins didn't exist until this film came out.  He was 52 years old at the time and had already put in a great career.  He had already been nominated for 4 BAFTA awards (1 win for War & Peace) and a Golden Globe (for Magic), not to mention a fantastic role as the doctor in David Lynch's 'Elephant Man'.  Yes, Silence of the Lambs put him in the spotlight, but the way Paul and Amy talk in this episode, it was like he was born with this film.

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On 5/9/2019 at 1:21 PM, JeffreyMcDonald said:

I'm a little surprised that Manhunter didn't come up in the episode.  Anthony Hopkins' take on Lector was quite different from Brian Cox's version of the character; yet Manhunter is such an interesting flick regardless.

I think Silence of the Lambs is a higher quality film on the whole, because Manhunter is flawed (the song at the very end is awful), but Manhunter is my personal preference. I'll get into some of that below.

On 5/9/2019 at 1:54 PM, sycasey 2.0 said:

Yeah, the hipster movie fan opinion for some time has been, "Brian Cox's subtle intellectual Lecter was so much better than Hopkins' over-the-top performance."

I think both interpretations are valid and work for the movie they're in. IMO, a lot of people incorrectly interpret "subtle" acting as automatically "better" acting. Not so.

I think they're both excellent performances with different purposes. Brian Cox's version is supposed to have an impact, but then he goes away and is only of minor importance in the film. This makes sense, as he's a supporting character. In SIlence of the Lambs, he's still a supporting character and doesn't have that much more screentime, but he's the most memorable part of the film for most people. He just blows the viewer away, and Hopkins tremendous performance is a big part of that. He got hammier in Hannibal & Bret Ratner's Red Dragon, but we shouldn't let that tar his (bigger than Cox, but not bad) performance in Silence. It was category fraud that he won Best Actor rather than Best Supporting Actor, because within the story he's clearly a supporting character, with Clarice as the lead and Buffalo Bill as her antagonist. I prefer Manhunter for giving us Francis Dolarhyde as a person and not just the Red Dragon persona, whereas Jaime Gumb is a rather thin presence leaving with just his grotesque kidnapper persona. Him being a relatively thin antagonist is part of why people remember Lecter more. And if we were watching the story of Lecter vs Chilton that might be fair, but that's not this film. Incidentally, Chilton doesn't leave anything in Lecter's cell in the book. Lecter just obtains it himself somehow and smuggles it to his new prison via his mouth (which nobody is willing to check).

Siskel greatly preferred Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer to Silence of the Lambs. It aims much more for gritty realism and is much less audience pleasing than Silence, which is part of why it was never as successful. If you have the stomach for movies like Silence of the Lambs & Seven, I recommend checking that out and comparing it to other movie serial killers. You definitely won't think of Henry as an awesome character who should hook up with the female lead (which is unfortunately the route Thomas Harris himself took with his next book).

As long as we're discussing Thomas Harris, his first novel, Black Sunday, is atypical in that there's no Hannibal Lecter or serial killers. Lander the deranged Vietnam P.O.W did remind me a bit of Dolarhyde though and his memories of growing up in the south seemed personal to Harris. Tom Clancy basically stole the premise of Palestinian terrorists attacking the Super Bowl, although my understanding is the film adaptation of that changed things.

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2 hours ago, FictionIsntReal said:

It was category fraud that he won Best Actor rather than Best Supporting Actor, because within the story he's clearly a supporting character

By screen time you're right of course, though this time I thought about how much time the movie devotes to Hannibal Lecter's character development. Take that long sequence of Lecter's escape: that scene is entirely about him (not about Clarice at all) and helps make the case for him as a "co-lead" character -- Hopkins isn't on screen for most of that, but his character is driving the action. He's the protagonist for a significant stretch of the film. Then you also have the scene where Chilton brings Lecter to the Senator, which again is mostly about Lecter's development and motivation within the story and doesn't involve Clarice. The film also closes with Lecter on screen, not Clarice.

I would still probably call him a supporting character, but the case for him as a lead is stronger than I thought.

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On 5/10/2019 at 6:02 PM, sycasey 2.0 said:

I wasn't sure if I was going to vote for this one, but a re-watch confirmed it. They touched on this in the podcast episode, but I do think Silence of the Lambs was the precursor and original inspiration for all of the "true crime" and serial-killer movies that happened in the 90s and beyond. The entire visual style of The X-Files seems lifted from this movie, something I hadn't really understood before (though I certainly could tell that Agent Scully's first-season hairstyle was inspired by Clarice Starling).

In thinking of horror/thriller movies (well, horror) that I'd probably prefer to be on the list, Night of the Living Dead came to mind.  If you're going for influence (e.g. true-crime craze), I would think NotLD would have to go on there, for (as far as everything I've heard, and have not see a counter-example) it invented what we think of as the zombie (apocalypse) genre.

Of the movies that I do not necessarily want on the list, but also influential, Halloween is credited for starting the slasher craze we associate with the 80s (even though Black Christmas by all accounts was getting to it first, and I don't know how The Texas Chainsaw Massacre doesn't seem to get credit for that, despite being iconic and coming out in '73 - which is also a movie with the killer influenced by Ed Gein).

But what came to mind: Night of the Living Dead, The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre; since the AFI is fine appropriating British films, I'd assume Canadian ones are also up for grabs, so something like Videodrome or The Fly (I'd already want enough Kubrick films, I wouldn't argue for The Shining).  Psycho is already on the list.  I did really enjoy Silence of the Lambs in this revisit, and it's well made, I just end up going through all these other films I'd prefer, I'd suspect I'd run out of space fast, so I guess, I'd be a "no," but at the same time, I'd say, compared to other films on the list, it doesn't make me scratch my head (after this revisit) as some other movies do.  But then again, looking through the 400 films in the 2007 AFI ballot, maybe I'd have a really hard time coming up with 100 films from their curation. 

 

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Aside comment - the podcast mentioned how this was the rare (only?) Oscar BP that was released in February.  My recollection is, it came out in February, but then was re-released close to the end of the year when they felt they had a shot at the Oscars (admittedly a memory from when I was a teenager, and as I write it, it feels weird that that is something I think I remember).  One of the more overt Oscar campaigning practices.

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On 5/11/2019 at 8:50 PM, ol' eddy wrecks said:

Aside comment - the podcast mentioned how this was the rare (only?) Oscar BP that was released in February.  My recollection is, it came out in February, but then was re-released close to the end of the year when they felt they had a shot at the Oscars (admittedly a memory from when I was a teenager, and as I write it, it feels weird that that is something I think I remember).  One of the more overt Oscar campaigning practices.

I did a quick search and it's wikipedia entry made it sound like it never actually stopped showing until October of 1991, but that almost seems impossible for a movie to stay in theaters that long!

The exact quote is: "The Silence of the Lambs was released on February 14, 1991, grossing $14 million during its opening weekend. At the time it closed on October 10, 1991, the film had grossed $131 million domestically with a total worldwide gross of $273 million."

But either way it seems like your memory is correct!

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