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WELL, HELLO, CLARICE ... A ``SILENCE OF THE LAMBS'' DVD REISSUE GARNISHES THE RELEASE OF ``HANNIBAL''.

Byline: Rob Lowman Entertainment Editor

It's Red Carpet time for DVDs. This week Oscar Best Picture winner ``Silence of the Lambs'' is being released on special-edition discs; next week it's ``Gandhi,'' and ``Forrest Gump,'' which we will talk about then.

Of course, the release of ``Lambs'' coincides with debut of ``Hannibal,'' its sequel, on DVD and video. How these two films compare to one another is interesting - sort of like the main course and dessert. Sometimes after a good meal, there is not much room for dessert.

``Lambs'' (1991) took home five Oscars - besides Best Picture, it received Best Director (Jonathan Demme), Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins), Best Actress (Jodie Foster) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Ted Tally). A taut psychological thrill, ``Lamb'' revolves around the ``relationship'' between FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Foster) and imprisoned serial murderer, Dr. Hannibal ``the Cannibal'' Lecter (Hopkins). Clarice has been sent to interview Hannibal by FBI Special Agent Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) who has a hunch that Lecter may have some insight into another series of murders - these by a suspect known as ``Buffalo Bill,'' because he skins young women.

``Do you spook easily, Starling?'' Crawford asks the young woman trying to overcome her past demons as well as be tough enough to make it in the man's world of the bureau. He is sending Clarice (a lamb), not to be slaughtered, but because he hopes that Hannibal, who has a penchant for eating his victims, will respond to her innocence, her purity of purpose. ``Do you spook easily?'' Demme was actually asking the audience. For what follows is near perfection - chilling, fascinating and subtle, especially the acting. Clarice is a woman who is constantly trying to keep under control and not allow her emotions to spill out. Foster's face and body language showed us that. Hannibal is always in control, a predator with intellect, an antenna up to sense any weakness. Hopkins was able to convey the menace of Hannibal with sometimes a mere half smile. It's a brilliant performance.

How does ``Hannibal'' stack up?

There's no doubt that the public had an appetite for a sequel, but there were problems. Foster and Demme declined to come on board. There were apparent script problems. Julianne Moore, a fine actress in her own right, stepped in to take on the role of Clarice, Ridley Scott (``Gladiator'') took over as director and playwright/director David Mamet and Steven Zaillian wrote the screenplay, which, like ``Lambs,'' was based on a novel by Thomas Harris.

Don't expect to see ``Hannibal'' up for many Oscar nominations next March, except perhaps in art direction. Scott has given the picture a cool, baroque glaze, an apparent contradiction, but that's very much the director's style - grand visual schemes with a detachment. As ``Hannibal'' plays out its feast of gore, Scott ambles on as if he's more interested in the Italian architecture (much of the film is set in Florence) than in the story, but considering the story, maybe that's not such a bad idea.

Moore seems to be channeling Foster; she never quite captures the character. She is able, though, to make it work to a degree, as if she were Clarice's older sister. (The film is set 10 years later.) Hannibal is by now almost in retirement mode, and Hopkins plays him that way, sated, bemused, but still capable of cooking up a first-class meal when the opportunity presents itself.

The problem is that while Lecter was a lightning rod in ``Lambs,'' with the action often going on around him (there was another serial killer to catch), in ``Hannibal'' he is primarily the focus. So while in ``Lambs'' the tension continuously builds, in ``Hannibal'' the audience is usually waiting for the next course of gore to be served up. Still it's a classy group who have put ``Hannibal'' together, and even if the film isn't great, it has some tasty moments.

Both films are loaded with extras, including deleted scenes. One thing I've noticed about them is that no matter how fascinating, I much more often than not agree with the director about leaving them out. Besides the deleted scenes, ``Lambs'' has new interviews with Foster and Hopkins and an outtake reel. Missing, though, is the commentary that was on the earlier DVD. ``Hannibal,'' too, has deleted scenes plus commentary by Scott, who is always interesting to listen to, in that he spends time explaining his decisions and the thinking that went into them rather than just giving you funny stories about what went on during filming.

``Hannibal'' (MGM) is $29.98 on DVD and priced to rent on VHS. ``Silence of the Lambs'' (MGM) is $24.98 on DVD.

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It's not the ending of ``An Officer and a Gentleman'' - it's ``Hannibal,'' starring Anthony Hopkins and Julianne Moore. The sequel to ``The Silence of the Lambs'' arrives on video and DVD this week.
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Title Annotation:Review; L.A. Life
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Video Recording Review
Date:Aug 21, 2001
Words:815
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