Jonathan Demme’s death has moved the film world. Jonathan Demme was a founding member of a cinematic generation. He started out with Roger Corman, then left Hollywood to go back East and hung his shingle in New York city at the exact moment when the independent film movement began. Never an intellectual or theorist of his own work, he could be scorned as cinema-lite, yet the eulogies piling up reveal how universally beloved he was. FQ has always paid attention to Demme. Here are two articles from the FQ archives to mark his passing.
Something troubling is happening in the film world in Albania. Some weeks ago, the country’s Institute for Communist Crimes proposed that films from the country’s communist era (1946-1991) should be banned from television. They argued that screening movies made during these 45 years would encourage nostalgia for the old Enver Hoxha regime which was, of course, an oppressive dictatorship in many ways. Its labor camps and prisons were places of terror. Many were murdered because of their political dissent or non-conformism. But banning the estimated 200 films made by the Albanian Film Institute from 1945 and then the Kinostudio from 1952 would be a counter-productive way to deal with the wounds of the past.
Robert Townsend and Keenen Ivory Wayans are true pioneers and godfathers of American Independent Cinema. The New York Times’ critic Janet Maslin called their film Hollywood Shuffle “exuberant satire,” and accurately noted its “reality-minded humor.” That’s a remarkable achievement considering that the film is remembered not only for its breakthrough critique of the entertainment industry’s stereotyping of African Americans, but also for its free-wheeling sketch comedy structure that feels fresh and original while also bringing to mind The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Norman Z. McLeod, 1947), the films of Preston Sturges, and the early work of Woody Allen. The film was made in twelve days over the course of two years for $100,000, much of it put on credit cards. It grossed $5 million in its initial release and was honored at the 1987 Deauville Festival and again in 1988 at the Spirit Awards. It is as funny a work as it is serious, and as serious as it is funny.
In Memoriam: Brian Henderson. April 17, 1941- March 1, 2017. Brian Henderson wrote frequently for FQ and was a longtime member of the FQ Editorial Board. To celebrate his contribution to the field of film and media studies, we offer here his first feature-length article published in FQ’s pages.