“Manhunter” (1986) started this love-affair we seem to have with Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter and Thomas Harris, the guy who wrote all the novels on which these three films are based.
After Kubrick, Michael Mann, the film’s director, is the greatest visual storyteller I know. He reined it in after this testosterone-fuelled magnum opus. Every damn shot in this film speaks volumes. The mars/red light/red dragon correlation is something I missed watching this masterpiece the first nine times. Hard to tell where the upsetting wardrobe/glasses end and the 80s begin. So many modern films and TV series owe a debt to this. 10/10. The Anchor Bay DVD version has the disturbing alt. ending where Graham shows up at the next target family’s house and can’t remember his own name. Wow.
Silence of the Lambs (1991). What a huge loss to us all that Jonathan Demme died earlier this year. This is an incredibly tense thriller, but also an evolved, feminist picture (directed by a man, I’m proud to say), and despite the mountains of praise, awards, etc. heaped on this film for its ground-breaking performances, I think nobody really noticed the subtext. Don’t believe me? Next time you watch it, look carefully at any scene where Starling (Jodi Foster) is alone with men and see how they leer at and objectify her. Against all odds, she finishes the mission. My hero! 10/10.
Demme clearly loved “Manhunter.” He brought over at least two actors from the first film.
Third is the appropriately-titled “Hannibal” (2001), directed by Ridley Scott. It’s the Hopkins show now, and he *is* great… yet this doesn’t measure up to the power the ensemble performances bring to the previous two films. I blame the source material. The film has its moments, though: the forensic nose experts, “bowels in, or bowels out?” and Italy… still: 7/10.