Eastwood’s conceptions of heroism and villainy have always been, if not endlessly complex, at least never simplistic.
When Jonathan Demme left us last month, cinephiles all over the world were in mourning. We felt we knew this man. His films were like old friends, because they so clearly believed in us. "Something Wild," "The Silence of the Lambs," "The Manchurian Candidate," "Rachel Getting Married" ... these films get mighty dark before they resolve but it never mattered because he was always being honest about our shortcomings as a species; he really and truly loved us. Yes, we could be cruel and stupid and violent, but we could love each other unlike any other species because we do it knowing how awful it is to be human sometimes.
He always brought us back from the brink, always gave us a justified happy ending. Things ended well for his heroes (for the most part) because they had done everything they could to learn, to make sacrifices, to change, and to let our fellow man change us for the better.
Demme's cinema reached its apex with the wild, gorgeous and heart-wrenching "Beloved," which you currently can't buy on Blu-ray. Oprah gives her best performance as Toni Morrison's beleaguered former slave Sethe, who lives with the scars White America stamped on every inch of her body and soul. Her earnestness is awe-inspiring. She's just right.
With Demme gone and our country in the most dire straits it's been in in decades, it is my fervent hope that this movie is restored, re-released and finally, truly embraced. We need its healing power now, its unbridled honesty, its equally powerful barbarity and tenderness. This was the anti-"Gone With The Wind," a lavish epic that loves its black heroes, and America needs it.
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