Jonathan Demme

There is something wonderfully free about the films of Jonathan Demme, who sadly passed away this week. His movies are very different from each other, yet there is a clear theme running through all of them.

It is a theme of soaring spirit. Whether you are watching David Byrne dancing in a big suit, Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington taking on mindless hate, Michelle Pfeiffer struggling for personal freedom in the tackiest world imaginable, or Anthony Hopkins playing an improbably likable monster, you know you are witnessing something special, something wondrously full of life.

After having been a fan of Demme’s work for decades, I finally had the honor of meeting him just a few months ago at a screening at Lincoln Center of his last film. He was very frail — the cancer that would do him in was already quite advanced — but his eyes were still bright and full of delight.

We geeked out together about cinema for a while (of course), and then I invited him to come to our Future Reality Lab to experience shared virtual reality. His eyes lit up, and he said he would love to.

I told him that I was sure he would think of things to do with this new medium that we would never have dreamt of. I am still quite sure I was right about that, but alas, time was not on our side.

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