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The Silence of the Lambs
1991 - R - 118 Mins.
Director: Jonathan Demme
Producer: Ronald M. Bozman
Written By: Ted Tally
Starring: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, Anthony Heald, Ted Levine
Review by: John Ulmer
Hannibal Lecter. The very name sparks fear and discomfort. He is one of the most popular screen villains of all time - the incarnation of evil - and yet he is strangely likable despite his savoring of human flesh. "I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice bottle of chianti," he tells FBI Agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) - a line that's become ingrained in popular culture.

When Starling first meets Lecter in front of his high security cell, it's a defining element of the film's narrative. Hannibal Lecter, an insanely brilliant psychologist, knows exactly how to reach past Starling's natural barriers to crack into her brain with devastating ease. Who could forget that classic scene where she recalls memories from her childhood, of the lamb she tried to save...

Agent Starling is on the case of a serial killer whose victims are young women. Although they are unaware of his motives, it turns out the infamous "Buffalo Bill" is using the skins of these victims for his own bizarre purposes. The role of Clarice Starling earned Foster a Best Actress Oscar, portraying this smart, feminine icon. Her intelligence propels her investigation into the case while her desire to unearth the truth and compete with her male counterparts stems from a sort of egotistical dominance.

Not many people comment on Sterling's own sexuality - her almost overly excessive efforts at saving the victims (who happen to be females). Buffalo Bill seems to represent her own image of men: cruel creatures who inflict pain and suffering upon helpless women. Lecter, the only man she can rely on for help, is an outcast - a metaphor for the repressed homosexuals who are shunned by society. Author Thomas Harris's underlying implications of homosexuality and female dominance in the novel are watered down in the film but the suggestions are still evident under close examination.

Or, it could just be a movie about serial killers and FBI agents. You decide.

Has "Lambs" aged well? It is well directed, but the film never fascinates me as the bold and daring "Se7en" did. "Silence of the Lambs" is a fine film, but it pales in comparison to some of its imitators and genre contemporaries. The acting and writing are not at fault - Hopkins and Foster are superb. Though Hopkins received the most critical acclaim, by 2001, Foster's importance to the role was demonstrated when she was replaced by Julianne Moore which resulted in the unsuccessful sequel, "Hannibal," directed by Ridley Scott.

"Lambs," more than any other film in the series, is terribly manipulative, complete with tacky flashbacks that are out of place and all too convenient. Demme does not use cinematography to his advantage, nor does he use darker tones to evoke feelings. Still, it's a great movie with convincing performances and a realistic script packaged in the form of a typical Hollywood thriller, but compared to other classics of the genre, "The Silence of the Lambs" just doesn't hold up after all these years.

On the plus side there's always that terrific ending to look forward to.

Movie Guru Rating
An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater.
  4 out of 5 stars

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