Friday, March 22, 2013

The Silence of Hannibal

It's nearly impossible to make a perfect movie,
but this one comes damn close.
CAVEAT: all my movie stuff has spoilers. Read at your own risk.

This is pretty much going to be on everyone's favorite list, but I must sing the praises of the two great Hannibal Lector movies (Hannibal Rising left me cold and Red Dragon has the wrong actor for Will Graham).

What is it about a well-educated, even polite, incredibly intelligent serial killer? After all, the man eats human flesh. What redeeming qualities could he have?


Dr. Lector's insight into people is remarkable. Instantly he finds Clarice's motives and insecurities and makes her squirm. A compulsion he savors like a fine vintage.

Hannibal is a metaphor for someone who acts upon what may cross our minds in a fit of fury: revenge/murder of those who have wronged us. But it isn't just Hannibal's horrific crimes that draw us to him, it is his unflinching honesty. (And who wouldn't want a mind with that much retention and capacity?)

Unlike us, Hannibal has no filters on his observations and thoughts. He says what we smother with an awkward smile.

If you asked people to quote anything from this movie, you're going to get the old "fave-beans-and-nice-Chianti" bit, but this movie reveals much, much more. When pressed for more information about Buffalo Bill, Dr. Lector reveals his brilliance:

"Look for severe childhood disturbances associated with violence. Our Billy wasn't born a criminal, Clarice. He was made one through years of systematic abuse. Billy hates his own identity, you see, and he thinks that makes him a transsexual. But his pathology is a thousand times more savage and more terrifying."

Boom: sum and substance in five sentences.

Some Lector fans never gave this movie a chance because Jodie Foster bitched out and did not reprise her Clarice. Her reasoning was that "my character wouldn't do that," referring to the book's ending of Clarice and Hannibal becoming romantically involved. As shocking as that was to read, I thought the author wrapped up the story quite convincingly and nicely. And since when does an actor own a character more than the writer who created it?

So what, Julianne Moore is great.

Hannibal is the most elegant of all the Lector movies. Here we are invited into the world of refined taste: delicately nuanced food, musical masterworks, literary treasures and even hand engineered skin lotion. Remember, "it rubs the lotion on its skin"? A nice reference back.

All the symbolism, the literary references, the symbols and metaphors of this magical movie were missed by movie-goers who were only impressed or grossed out by the brain dissection scene. Which proves that directors can lace their work with delightful layers upon layers of richness and Neanderthals will miss it every time.

(heavy sigh)

Again Lector's insight when talking to Clarice about her dismissal from the FBI:

"Would they have you back, you think? The FBI? Those people you despise almost as much as they despise you. Would they give you a medal, Clarice, do you think? Would you have it professionally framed and hang it on your wall to look at and remind you of your courage and incorruptibility? All you would need for that, Clarice, is a mirror."

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