Thursday, 17 March 2016

I've Just Seen: Philadelphia (1993)

Philadelphia (1993)

Director: Jonathan Demme

Other than the two main performances from Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks, the most interesting aspect to Demme's film is the way it acts as a litmus test for how far Western society as come regarding gay rights. Released over twenty years ago, Philadelphia tackled the fear and outrage surrounding homosexuality, fear which was compounded by the AIDS crisis that so devastated the gay community in the 80s and 90s. While discrimination is still a huge issue, the wider acceptance of the fact that some people are gay, and that's okay (and are not going to give you AIDS), means the film acts largely is a reminder of the way things recently were.

Demme uses his penchant for close-ups on characters' faces (as seen in Silence of the Lambs) to confront the audience with the humanity of the characters, their strengths and weaknesses. Though done rather too often, it allows us to get close to the performances, seeing little flickers of expression pass over the actors' faces. Hanks is naturally good as Andrew Beckett, a man facing his own mortality who wants to see justice served, knowing it will help others. For me, Denzel Washington was the standout, a man who believes in justice, yet is repulsed by Beckett's sexuality. He does change, but it is not from one extreme to another; he comes to see Beckett as a person whose death will be a great loss to the world. 

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